NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- A 27-year-old man who was struck by lightning on Tuesday died over the weekend, becoming the first lightning-related death in Florida this year.
The man was tending to a lawn as part of a landscaping project as a thunderstorm approached and was knocked unconscious when lightning struck a nearby palm tree.
"The lightning struck, and he was right next to it," the victim's cousin told FOX 35 Orlando. He was 20 feet away when the lightning struck. Doctors believed the charge ran down the tree and into the ground. It then struck the victim's foot and charged right through his body, FOX 35 said.
The man's death was the seventh to happen in the U.S. in July -- all men, according to John Jensenius with the National Lightning Safety Council. While it's the first in Florida this year, Florida leads the nation in lightning-related deaths, with 80 since 2006.
Jensenius says the Florida death is the ninth lightning death in the U.S. from work-related landscaping and lawn care activities during thunderstorms since 2006. Seven of those nine have occurred in Florida. In addition, 21 others have died in the U.S. from lightning strikes during non-work-related lawn care.
When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors
Jensenuis says if you're outside during a thunderstorm, you're in danger. The priority is to get inside.
"The key to safety is to plan ahead to ensure that you can get to a safe place," Jensenius told FOX Weather. "If thunderstorms are predicted, you should consider canceling or postponing the activity if you can't get to a safe place quickly. If you are involved in an outdoor activity and thunderstorms are possible, monitor radar or lightning data if possible, keep an eye on the sky, and get inside a safe place immediately if the sky looks threatening or you hear even a distant rumble of thunder. If some is caught outside, we recommend running as fast as possible to get to a safer place."
That safer place means inside a car or inside a building. You should wait until 30 minutes after the last thunder to resume outdoor activity.
Lightning deaths favor men 4-1 over women
Of the 446 people who have died from lightning from 2006-2021, 357 -- 80% -- have been men.
"While we don’t have studies to show the exact reason why men are four times more likely to be killed by lightning than women, we suspect it is related to their behavior around thunderstorms," Jansenius said. "Men tend to be involved in certain activities which make them more vulnerable to a lightning strike, but we also think they are less willing to react quickly to a lightning threat."
He says 90% of the work-related lightning fatalities such as farming, ranching, roofing, and construction are men. Similarly, about 90% of the victims involved in fishing or sports activities are male.