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Warning Issued As Lightning Kills Three, Injures Four Across State

Scattered and frequent lightning bursts put on a show in the skies over Westchester and Putnam last week.
Scattered and frequent lightning bursts put on a show in the skies over Westchester and Putnam last week. Photo Credit: Skip Pearlman

A day after lightning struck in a Dutchess County park, killing one and injuring four others, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement urging New Yorkers to be cautious during a series of severe thunder and lightning storms anticipated in the coming days.

Cuomo’s statement comes after a 50-year-old man died from injuries suffered during a Friday lightning strike in Poughkeepsie’s Mansion Square Park.

As of late Saturday, two other men affected by the lightning strike were in critical condition. The strike rendered two others unconscious, but those victims were said to be recovering.

In his statement, Cuomo also reported the recent deaths of two people in Genesee County at the hands of lightning.

While offering his condolences to those affected by the tragic incidents, Cuomo urged vigilance.

“As severe weather sweeps the state, New Yorkers in affected communities should exercise extreme caution and avoid unnecessary travel,” he said. “Keeping New Yorkers safe is priority number one and the state will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Citing the National Weather Service, Cuomo said lightning strikes in the United States more than 25,000 times a year, injuring or killing 49 people on average.

So far this year, 25 people have been killed or injured by lightning, which according to the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, kills more people each year than tornadoes, the governor said.

Cuomo said people (and their pets) facing the threat of lightning should immediately seek a safe shelter such as a house or other substantial building that employs a “mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground.” An all-metal, hard-topped vehicle can also provide safe shelter.

Those who are caught outdoors should look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning and increasing wind, and listen for thunder, Cuomo said, warning that the danger can be real even when the skies overhead are clear because lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles.

During a storm, those already indoors should take a number of precautions as well.

Cuomo said telephones and other electronic devices with cords should not be used during a lightning storm and that people should stay away from windows, doors and porches as these can provide the path for a direct strike to enter a home.

People also are urged to avoid plumbing during lightning storms, meaning they should not wash their hands, take a shower, wash dishes or do laundry.

If someone is struck by lightning, medical attention should be sought and first aid given immediately.

Forecasters are calling for temperatures in the high 90s Sunday with thunderstorms possible in the evening. Scattered thunderstorms are again expected Tuesday, when temperatures across the region are expected to top out in the high 80s.

Click here for more lightning safety tips and for Cuomo's full statement.

For an update on the Poughkeepsie lightning strike that killed one and injured four, click here.

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