Lightning deaths surge drastically across the nation

Lightning deaths surge drastically across the nation

MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - We're no stranger to severe weather in Alabama, and so far this year two people have been killed in lightning related incidents in the state.

In fact, the number of people killed by lightning has spiked in just the past two weeks; we've already reached the half way point for the national average.

Chandler Muller's sons are lucky to be alive.

"It stopped his heart and luckily there was someone on the boat who knew how to restart his heart," said Dr. Chandler Muller, a physician at Our Med Montgomery.

Hearing that there's been a surge in lightning related deaths over the past two weeks hits close to home for Dr. Muller, his two sons were struck on a boat three years ago in Destin.

"Every fish that was in the fish bin, their eyes popped out and there were no scales on the fish; it was really bizarre," said Dr. Mulller.

Muller said the electrical current traveled through both men who were on the boat, splitting one of their glasses in half and causing seizures.

Both of Muller's boys are OK, but that hasn't been the case for twenty people across the U.S. so far this year, including two in Alabama.

"Everything runs on a very low voltage electrical system, so when people die it's really because that burst of electricity short-circuits the heart and it stops," said Muller.

The National Weather Service recently posted a warning on social media of the spike in lightning-related fatalities.

"It's so deadly and dangerous because it doesn't have to be a direct hit," said Muller.

According to Dr. Muller, the majority of lightning-related deaths are due to a transfer, or surge, through the ground or another object and data from the National Weather Service confirms this.

"If you find yourself outside and there's no way to get indoors, go to a low area hopefully not around any tall trees; perhaps in some low shrubs, that's your best bet," said John De Block, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The NWS says nature provides its own warning system so when you hear thunder, it's time to get inside.

"You don't want to be outside when there's the afternoon thunderstorm, you want to be inside and dry and in a safe place," said De Block.

Dr. Muller also has some potentially lifesaving advice; if you see someone get struck by lightning and they're not breathing, he says to beat their chest.  Muller says his nephew was on board the vessel when lightning struck and beating his son's chest saved his life.

Last year 27 people in the U.S. died due to lightning, with four of those fatalities in Alabama and five in Florida.

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