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Lightning a Reality in the Stormy South

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RALEIGH — All it takes is one flash of light. One second, and this force of naturecan change your life forever.

Mary Ann Maney was lucky. HerHillsborough home narrowly missed being struck by lightning. Instead, ithit a neighbor's home with the loud boom of an explosion, sending thestructure up in flames.

Every year, hundreds of homes in North Carolina are struck by lightning.It's a significant problem, especially for the firefighters who must rushout in a dangerous storm to fight a fire. Chief Rusty Styons of theRaleigh Fire Department says our state is one of the top states for thenumber of lightning strikes recorded annually.

You can't predict exactly where lightning will strike, even when youtake the best precautions. Unfortunately, fire and even death could bethe end result.

It was a devastating feeling for Mary Ann Maney to watch what happened inher neighborhood. She says it makes her nearly sick to her stomach tojust watch someone's home burn and think it could be her own.

Chief Rusty Styons says the problem is made worse if your house is surroundedby trees. He recommends cutting any trees back that stand around thehouse. The lightning is going to seek out the highest point typically.That means trees that are very close to the house. Styons'department often sees cases of lightning that has come in on a tree andjumped to the eave of a house.

Lightning doesn't always spark an immediate fire. You can get a deepseeded fire inside the walls. The electricity services like telephonewires and it's something that needs to be monitored over2 to 3 hours.

If that happens, Styons says you should call 911 immediately and simplynot take any chances with the forces of nature.

We can rebuild those houses, but we can't rebuild you.

Eighty-five percent of those struck by lightning are children or young menhit during some kind of outdoor activity or work. Thirty-five percent oflightning-related deaths in North Carolina happen when the victim is in anopen field. Twenty-three percent are water related, while 22% involvepeople struck while under a tree. Only seven percent occur on a GolfCourse.

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