Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Lightning strikes

The North Korean women’s soccer coach reportedly blamed his team’s loss to the U.S., in a World Cup game Tuesday, on a lightning storm. He said lightning strikes sent more than five of his players to the hospital recently. The players weren’t really well enough to compete, he reportedly said.

It was a curious explanation for a loss, and it got me thinking about the power of those bolts from the sky. I watched some last night from my porch during a brief power outage, and I shouted at my daughters, who’d gone across the street, to come back inside when I realized the storm hadn’t quite passed. I felt a little paranoid — what are the odds of anyone getting hit?

But then I thought of the two area boys who were struck by lightning at a baseball field a couple of years ago — one was severely injured and the other died. And I thought about the young men I interviewed many years ago, in Aspen, after they were struck by lightning while climbing a mountain. Their climbing partner died, and the two of them had burn marks on their legs from the bolt that bounced among them.

“The National Weather Service estimates that lightning strikes the earth 25 million times per year in the United States,” said a recent press release from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

“On average in the United States, around 55 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are injured permanently,” the physicians group reported. “While your risk of being struck by lightning is low, it is a serious danger that increases at this time of year…”

On the upside, 90 percent of people who are struck by lightning survive, the group said, though many suffer serious injuries.

If a person is struck by lightning, it’s safe to touch them to begin administering aid — they don’t carry an electrical charge, the physicians group said. Call 911 right away. Begin CPR if necessary and you know how. (This is no substitution for taking a class, but offers a good CPR overview, including pointers for the untrained, at

To keep yourself safe during lightning storms, follow this advice from the physicians group:

  • Seek shelter, preferably in an insulated building. A car with a metal top also is safe.
  • Turn off and stay away from electrical appliances, power tools, computers and TVs.
  • Don’t use a landline with a cord; instead, use a cell phone or cordless phone.
  • Stay away from water. (Get out of the pool if you’re swimming.)
  • Avoid metal objects.