Florida leads nation in lightning deaths after Monday strike kills camper

A man was killed by lightning Monday at a campground in Florida’s Panhandle.

Jeremy Harper, 35, was standing under a tree outside his tent during a thunderstorm. Officials believe the tree was struck by lightning and knocked him to the ground, according to the Navarre Newspaper. 

Harper lived in Kentucky, but was camping with family in Okaloosa County.

His death is the fifth this year attributed to lightning and the third in Florida.

Florida traditionally leads the nation in lightning deaths.

Since 2007, there have been 51 people killed in the state by lightning. That’s more than double the second leading state of Texas, which totaled 21 deaths. 

Based on the past 10 years, there is an average of 14 fatalities through July 10.

Related: Top 5 myths of lightning strikes and how to protect yourself 

“The safety for thunderstorms is pretty darn simple — don’t be outside,” said Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist with AccuWeather. “If you hear thunder, then you can be struck by lightning.”

Related: Two people found dead in cemetery likely killed by lightning

Lightning forms when strong updrafts in towering cumulonimbus clouds force molecules to collide, creating an electric charge.

Lightning rapidly heats a narrow channel of air to temperatures as high as 54,000 degrees, which prompts the emission of light and a crack of thunder as super-heated air expands rapidly, producing shockwaves.

Related: Amazing video of lightning strike on Florida beach 

Although a popular belief is that golfers are the most likely to be struck by lightning, it’s not true.

Between 2006 and 2016, fishermen accounted for more than three times as many fatalities as golfers, while beach activities and camping each accounted for at least twice as many deaths as golf, according to a National Weather Service report released in March.

Author: Kimberly Miller

Kimberly grew up outside Washington D.C. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 1995. Her beats have included K-12 education, universities and colleges, real estate, and general assignment.

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