Why People Fishing Should Listen Especially Hard For Thunder

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Since 2003, five people in Wisconsin have been killed by lightning. The National Weather Service says those most likely to die from lightning strikes are fishermen outside during a storm.

Craig Amacker is fly fishing manager for the national outdoors store REI, in Madison. He’s never had a close encounter with lightning, but he’s heard the stories from fellow river guides out West:

Amacker: “The guide got hit by lightning. Basically the strike went from the right side of his head, down to his left foot. There’s a hole burned about the size of a silver dollar in his hat. His hat is what saved him.”

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The National Weather Service says across the country, 238 people died from lightning during the last seven years. Of those fatalities, 29 were fishermen. They may be far from the safety of shore, says John Jensenius. He’s a lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service.

Jensenius: “A lot of time what happens is people may wait to see if the storm blows by. Simply put, that’s a very bad idea, because once you can hear thunder you are within striking distance of the storm and need to get inside immediately.”

Jensenius says lightning can strike 10 miles away from the storm. “We have a very simple saying, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors.’”

And that’s what Amacker says he does:

Amacker: “When it’s stormy and gets real bad the first thing I do is reel up, hold my [fly fishing] rod very low and head back to the car or back to camp and just get out of the storm.”

The National Weather Service says a tent or hut won’t protect someone from lightning: Only a building or car will.

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