Who's asking: James Lamb, Virginia Beach, VA
James's question was more specific than this, but I've mislaid it -- James, if you remember it, leave it in the comments section.
It seems appropriate, anyway, because they had to evacuate the national Mall last night for a severe thunderstorm warning, and last week was National Lightning Safety Week. (I ask everyone who believes that the United States has God on its side to consider the theological implications of lightning striking the Mall on the 4th of July.)
The NOAA website says that 400 people a year get struck by lightning, but doesn't make it clear whether that's worldwide or nationwide. Between 1997 and 2006, 437 people in the United States died from lightning strikes. Wyoming is the most dangerous state for lightning, and no one died of lightning strikes in Alaska, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, New Hampshire or Washington state.
More frightening to me than the thought of being killed by lightning is the idea of being permanently injured by it. Electrocution can cause a horrifying basket of permanent neurological injuries: memory loss, inability to process information and store new information, inability to focus and concentrate.
You can protect yourself by going inside when you see lightning. If you hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing a lightning strike, the storm's too close to you: take cover immediately, and NOT under a tree. Caves are okay. Buildings are best. Contrary to myth, the rubber tires on an automobile offer no insulation from lightning. Once you've taken cover, it's not safe to go out again until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder you hear.
Your lifetime risk of being struck by lightning, if you live to be 80, is one in 5,000. Better odds than the lottery, that's for sure.
Five Random Songs
"Something to Say," The Connells. I've been listening to this CD (Fun & Games) a lot over the past several days. This song starts the album, and sets the tone for a series of songs with sad lyrics set to cheerful tunes. This is one of several songs on the CD I suspect of being set in a mental hospital.
"Virginia," Gin Blossoms. The Gin Blossoms' second CD, Congratulations... I'm Sorry, disappointed some people who loved their first record (New Miserable Experience). I think it's just as good a record, but it didn't have the force of surprise that their debut did.
"Ain't No Sunshine," Bill Withers. Appropriate for this gray, rainy day. One of the first R&B songs I ever remember hearing on the radio, in my first-grade carpool in Fairfax, Virginia. The year was 1971, and this song won the Grammy for Best R&B Song.
"True Faith - ('94)," New Order. Broken hearts on the dance floor.
"That Old Sweet Roll," Dusty Springfield. From Dusty in Memphis, a song that makes me want to drink bourbon and laze around for the rest of the day. Most of the country's on vacation today, I think, and as a freelancer, I resent that.