WATCH: Global News Weather Specialist Nicole Mortillaro discusses the lightning death in Waterloo, Ont. and how often tragedies like this can occur.
TORONTO – Lightning-related deaths—like the incident that killed a University of Waterloo student Friday morning—are thankfully becoming less and less common in both Canada and the U.S.
Summer weather safety
Student struck and killed by lightning at Waterloo campus
Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Geoff Coulson said up to recently, Environment Canada was estimating about 10 to 12 fatalities and about 150 to 160 injuries each year across Canada.
But the latest research shows a decrease in such incidents, which coincides with a “significant” decline over the last century.
READ MORE: Summer weather safety
“The deaths are actually down somewhat,” said Coulson. “The average number of deaths across Canada is about three in the nine to 10-year timeframe between 2002 and 2011. And we’ve had about 125 injuries in that timeframe.”
The agency’s website said lightning-related deaths have fallen from a peak of 2.4 deaths per million population in 1931-1935, to 0.11 deaths from 1999-2003, according to Canadian vital statistics.
“Unfortunately tragedies like we had this morning at the University of Waterloo is getting people talking about this again,” said Coulson. “And it is an opportunity for us to reinforce the lightning safety rule, that basically says: When thunder roars, go indoors.”
“No place outside is safe during a thunderstorm.”
READ MORE: How to stay safe near lightning
The injuries can be quite severe, often having disturbing consequences such as memory loss and physical disabilities.
Most Canadian victims are male and participating in “outdoor recreational activities” when injured or killed by lightning.
In the United States, the National Weather Service (NOAA) lists lightning fatalities from the years 2006-2014, where the declining trend is also evident.
There were less than half as many U.S. lightning deaths in 2013 than there were in 2006, showing a steep decline. So far in 2014, there have been 20 fatalities. Similar to Canada, the majority of the victims were male; 40 per cent were 39 years or younger and 55 per cent were 40 years or older.
It’s a stark contrast to 1943–the deadliest year for lightning deaths–when 432 Americans were killed. The NOAA records, which date back to 1940, show 1,965 lightning deaths, 2,517 tornado deaths and 1,484 hurricane fatalities over the last 73 years.
A look at lightning fatalities in the U.S. from 2006 to 2014’s latest data.
National Weather Service (NOAA)
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