NOTASULGA, Ala. — It’s a lot more common to be struck by lightning than to win the Powerball – especially in the Southeast where thunderstorms are most common.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) your odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime (80 years) is 1 out of 13,500. The odds of winning the Powerball off one ticket are roughly 1 in 75 million.
Those odds were especially high for Michael Cannon. He was struck by lightning once in his teens and twice in his early twenties in Notasulga, Alabama.
“Back in the day before modern tv, I think God had little portals and brought everybody over and said ‘hey y’all, watch this! Zip!’” says Cannon.
He was putting up a fence in a field with his dad when he was struck the first time at 16.
“Lightning hit on the other side of the property – which the property is about a half mile wide – and lightning hit on it and I literally saw the ball of lightning coming down the fence and it hit me. And after that I had tremors and shakes for months with the right side,” says Cannon.
He was working under a truck in a shed outside when he was struck a second time at 23.
“My second lightning strike was right here. I was laying on the floor. This will get very wet/damp and many people have seen lightning where it just runs all over the floor the ground – just kinda static lightning. Well, it did that and it caught me,” Cannon explains.
Cannon says he hit his head on the bottom of the truck from the lightning startling him. The hit to the head hurt worse than the lightning.
The last time, he was hit the hardest.
“The third time I was struck was about 12 miles from here at a friend’s house looking at an old car under a pole barn. Lightning arched off the tin – I had my hands up on the top of the rail – lightning arched off the tin and burnt the hair off both hands and knocked me unconscious,” says Cannon.
Cannon was not taken to the hospital for any of the times he was struck..
“Other than an occasional twitch, I’m doing just fine.”
He says the greatest effect from the indirect hits is positive. Cannon says he doesn’t have a problem holding sparks plugs, and the electricity that would normally turn most people away doesn’t bother him.
It is surprising Michael’s been struck three separate times by lightning with hardly any consequences, but it’s not all that surprising he lived.
On average, 90 percent of people struck by lightning survive while 10 percent die.
Of the 350 people (out of 325 million) struck by lightning each year, between 25 to 35 people die from lightning on a 10-year average.
Two of those deaths this year were 16-year-old Aron Dunn and 34-year-old Toby Burrow.
Dunn was on a porch under a tree when he was struck and killed in Dothan in July.
Burrow was struck and killed while boating on Lake Harding in July.
“Thunderstorms are our most common occurrence out of any type of weather hazard that we get – when we talk about large hail, damaging winds with thunderstorms – lightning is a much more common occurrence,” says Peachtree City NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist David Nadler.
This is particularly the case for states along the Gulf Coast – including Alabama and Georgia.
So far this year, Alabama has had the second most lightning fatalities. Florida has had (and usually has) the most.
“Your chances of being struck by lightning are like your chances of being hit by a tornado. They’re small, but they can kill you. Period,” says Nadler.
The best way to avoid being struck by lightning is to find shelter indoors.
“If you’re outside and you can hear thunder, even if the storm is off in the distance, you’re in danger of being struck by lightning,” adds Nadler.
Nadler says to avoid tall and metal objects if you can’t find shelter nearby when caught outside in a storm. If there isn’t shelter close by, getting in a vehicle will provide some protection.
If you are able to find shelter, make sure to avoid showering, washing dishes or using anything plugged in (corded phones, computers). You can still be struck by lightning inside if you use anything that is connected outside – so think plumbing and electricity.
For the latest stats on lightning fatalities across the United States and more lightning tips click here.
MYTH VS. FACT:
Lightning only strikes the same spot once. MYTH: The Empire State Building is struck 23 times per year on average.
If someone is struck by lightning they could shock you. MYTH: Seek immediate medical attention for lightning victims.
Lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun. FACT: Lightning can reach 50,000°F
Rubber shoes/tires protect you from lightning. MYTH: The metal frame of a car actually protects you by acting as a Faradays’ cage.
Lightning kills more men than women on average. FACT: Over half of lightning victims are male.
Most lightning deaths occur golfing. MYTH: Fishing has the highest number of lightning-related deaths. The sport with the highest lightning-related deaths is soccer.
There are 5 different ways to be struck by lightning. FACT: Michael Cannon was struck two separate ways (once from ground current and twice from conduction).