Lightning deaths mount, what one man was doing that may have killed him

Two more people were killed by lightning Wednesday, bringing this year’s total to 16.

An Arizona teenager was killed while hiking Humphreys Peak in the northern part of the state. A 23-year-old man died after being struck Tuesday while huddling under a tree on an Arvida, Colo. golf course.

Trees are not good places to seek shelter. Just watch this video to see why.

Wednesday’s deaths follow a brutal volley of lightning strikes swept through the South last week killing five people and sending a sobering reminder that summer thunderstorms can be deadly, especially in Florida.

On Tuesday, two teenagers on Sand Key in Clearwater were injured when a bolt hit nearby, leaving one face down in the sand with no pulse and the other with no memory of what happened.

Vacationing nurse Cassandra Thomas performed CPR on 15-year-old Cameron Poimboeuf until paramedics arrived, said Clearwater Police and Fire Department spokesman Rob Shaw.

Read: Top 5 myths of lightning strikes

“She saw what happened from her balcony and them laying on the sand,” Shaw said. “She had to run down 16 floors because the elevator wasn’t working at the time.”

On Wednesday, Poimboeuf was in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital, while the other boy was scheduled to be released from the hospital, Shaw said.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“Lightning is a huge concern this time of year,” said Charlie Paxton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “That first clap of thunder is the warning, but sometimes we have to foresee those skies darkening and the possibility of lightning and go inside before the first bolt.”

Lightning strikes as motorists travel southbound on I95 near the 45th Street exit in West Palm Beach, June 29, 2015. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

Lightning strikes as motorists travel southbound on I95 near the 45th Street exit in West Palm Beach, June 29, 2015. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

The five people killed last week included two in Louisiana, and one each in Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina. Their ages range from 19 to 70, and while two were taking shelter under a tree – an unsafe place to be during a storm – one was just walking to his car, while another had stopped to put on rain gear while riding his motorcycle.

In total, 16 people have now died nationwide from lightning strikes this year. The two most recent deaths occurred in Arizona and Colorado. In Arizona, a 17-year-old was killed while hiking Humphreys Peak in Coconino County. A 23-year-old was struck on Tuesday and later died from his injuries. He was huddling under a tree on a golf course in Arvada, Colo.

Four of the deaths were in Florida, including two Palm Beach County residents. Bechelet Joseph, of Boynton Beach, was killed in April. Lake Worth resident Farooq Mohammad died in March.

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M-F Lightning Deaths 2006-2016 (002)

“We appreciate anything you can do to make people more aware of lightning,” said John Jensenius, a lightning specialist with the National Weather Service after the fifth person was struck down Saturday in North Carolina.

Florida’s summertime thunderstorms can conjure hundreds of lightning flashes in their brief lives as sea breezes from both coasts stir up the atmosphere.

That’s what happened Tuesday. Paxton said a strong easterly sea breeze moved across the state on a collision with the west coast’s sea breeze. Florida is unique nationwide because the sea breeze invades the peninsula from both coasts.

“When the two collide, things intensify,” Paxton said.

Shaw said the boys injured Tuesday, who are both from North Carolina, were walking on the beach when it started raining at about 4:30 p.m.. They ran for cover, and then the lightning hit.

“It’s a danger those who live here know about and respect. You can practically set your watch by the afternoon storms,” Shaw said. “If you are from out of state, you may not be aware of what they can do.”

Florida ranks tops in the nation for the highest number of days per year with thunderstorms, ranging from 80 along the coast to 100 in a more central region west of Lake Okeechobee.

Last year, 27 people were killed by lightning nationwide. Florida had the highest tally with five deaths.

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