Florida roofing worker is 4th lightning death in US this year. Here's how to keep yourself safe.
DELTONA, Fla. − Edvin Velasquez Cinto stood on the roof of a home under construction as storm clouds pushed toward the community. Then a bolt of lighting flashed.
The bolt struck the 24-year-old, who first appeared paralyzed before falling through an opening in the roof and through the wooden trusses to the concrete foundation below, his co-worker Ivan Cinto told the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.
The report said the bolt singed his white sneakers, burned patches of hair on his right leg and melted his socks to his feet.
Emergency responders tried to treat Velasquez Cinto at the scene but were thwarted by pouring rain. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
His death Monday becomes the nation's fourth lightning-related fatality this year and Florida's second, said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council and retired National Weather Service meteorologist.
More lightning deaths so far this year than average
Florida leads the nation in lightning deaths with 85 since 2006. Texas is second.
Such deaths had been declining after years of public safety messaging, reaching an all-time low of 11 in 2021. But fatalities jumped to 19 last year, according to the National Lightning Safety Council and the National Weather Service.
Velasquez Cinto's death puts the nation slightly above average for lightning-related deaths so far this year. The 10-year average through May 22 is three, Jensenius said.
The other deaths this year:
- On May 15, Matthew Boggs, 34, was holding the hand of his 6-year-old son, Grayson, as he walked his two boys home from the school bus stop in Valley Mills, Texas. Lightning struck Boggs, fatally wounding him and gravely wounding Grayson. According to family updates on a page at GoFundMe.com, the boy remains hospitalized.
- On April 16, lightning struck Peter Strong, 39, who was on a boat in Brevard County, Florida.
- On April 15, lightning was blamed for the death of a man in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Roofing is one of the riskiest businesses
Working on a roof is one of the deadliest work-related ways to get struck by lightning. It's second only to farming and ranching in deaths while at work.
- Velasquez Cinto's death was the 20th roof-related lightning death since 2006.
- More than half of those have been in Florida, Jensenius said.
'Starting 2023 with a bang': Video shows fiery lightning strike at JR Motorsports North Carolina headquarters
How do people get struck by lightning?
In one of four ways:
- Direct strike: The person becomes a part of the main discharge channel, usually when outside in an open area.
- Side flash: Lightning strikes a tall object and part of the current jumps from the object to the victim − for example, when a person is struck while standing under a tree
- Ground current: Lightning enters the body at the point closest to a strike, travels through the body and leaves at the contact point farthest away from the initial strike. This causes most deaths and injuries.
- Conduction: This is the cause of most indoor lightning deaths and injuries. Lightning travels through wires and other metal surfaces.
How hot is lightning? And other science facts.
- Lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun and can reach about 50,000 degrees.
- Lightning strikes in the U.S. about 25 million times a year.
- Men account for the majority of lightning deaths.
- Several hundred people are injured by lightning each year. Most survive, but many have lifelong neurological symptoms.
How can you prepare for lightning?
- Check the forecast if you're going to be outside, at a sporting event for example.
- Watch the skies and be aware of the weather.
- Plan in advance where you would seek shelter.
- If you hear thunder, go indoors.
How you can choose a lightning shelter if you're caught outside
- Choose one that is large and enclosed with plumbing and electrical wiring.
- Don’t shelter in buildings with exposed openings, such as metal sheds, picnic pavilions, baseball dugouts and porches.
- If a shelter isn't available, keep moving to search for a safe place. Don’t lie down or crouch on the ground. Avoid trees, light poles, metal fences, bleachers and unprotected open buildings.
- A car or truck can be an option of last resort, but don’t touch the steering wheel, radio or ignition.
- The following vehicles aren’t safe shelters: convertibles, golf carts, tractors and construction equipment.
When is it safe to go back outside after a thunderstorm?
You can go outdoors 30 minutes after you hear thunder or see lightning. Lightning is the first hazard to arrive in a thunderstorm and the last to leave, according to the National Weather Service.
Are these old wives' tales accurate?
Can lightning travel through a faucet or corded phone line? Yes. If you’re inside, stay away from electrical appliances and sockets, plumbing and corded telephones.
Can you be struck by lightning in the shower? Yes. Don’t take showers or baths during storms. Water and metal conduct electricity.
Can lightning strike the same place twice? Yes.
Latest US lightning deaths hit record low in 2021
Lightning struck a motorcyclist: It cracked his helmet and caused his death
Climate change: Study suggested climate change could cause more lightning strikes.