MOUNTAIN CITY, Ga. -- Two people were killed by lightning over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to the National Lightning Safety Council.
A 39-year-old man was struck by a bolt Saturday while loading tools into a van near a mountaintop in Mountain City, Georgia, says the council's John Jensenius. It was the first lightning death in Georgia in over a year and just the 17th since 2006.
Then on Sunday, a 33-year-old man was hit by lightning while near the beach at Masonboro Island, North Carolina. Jansenius says beach-related activities are the second-leading cause of lightning deaths in the United States. Sunday's death marked the 29th since 2006.
The weekend deaths raise the lightning-related death toll to three this year in the U.S. --a 52-year-old woman in Pico Rivera, California was killed while walking her dog in a thunderstorm in June. But the number of victims is still far below the average of nine lightning-related deaths by July 4.
Though Jansenius warns July is the deadliest month for lightning, with 149 total deaths in the month since 2006, averaging out to about eight each July.
Over the past five years, the U.S. has averaged 17 deaths from lightning a year -- though that rate has been steadily dropping since the turn of the century. And that's a credit to a now decades-long effort by the National Lightning Safety Council and National Weather Service to highlight the dangers of lightning and what you can do to stay safe.
"The success of the lightning safety effort has been very rewarding to all of us who have been involved during the past 22 years," Jansenius said. "When we started the effort in 2001, the 10-year average U.S. lightning death toll was 55 deaths a year. That 10-year average has now dropped to 23."
Jansenius and the NLSC have several safety tips you can use to prepare for thunderstorms and how to stay safe when thunderstorms are present.