Colorado’s No. 1 weather killer and how to stay safe

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DENVER — Statistics since 1980 reveal that Colorado averages three lightning fatalities and 13 injuries per year.

Lightning casualties by hour. Data NWS.

Digging deeper into the data, it’s mostly men at 2 p.m. on weekends in July in El Paso County who die in lightning strikes.

That’s when thunderstorms are most likely to coincide with summer outdoor recreation.

The best advice is to go inside a solid structure when thunderstorms move in. If you see lightning go inside immediately.  If you hear thunder, that means lightning is already present. That lightning could be moving toward you or away.

Mountaineers should descend immediately if a thunderstorm moves in. If the thunderstorm moves in quickly and traps you, then the best course of action is to get low, distance yourself from trees, toss away metal hiking poles and ice axes and cover your head.

The hot spots where lightning flashes happen most often are on the Palmer Divide and in the foothills.

That’s where the atmospheric ingredients combine to generate daily thunderstorms. It’s also over densely populated areas.

Lightning strike density map. Data NWS.

Lightning casualties by day. Data NWS.