45+ People Dead After 137,066 Lightning Strikes Cover Odisha
Extreme Lightning Frequency
Over the weekend, the state of Odisha in India experienced an extremely high frequency of lightning. In a 48-hour period (30-31 July 2016), Earth Networks Total Lightning Network™ (ENTLN) observed 137,066 lightning strikes in and around the state. Over 97,000 of those strikes occurred on Saturday alone.
The video above shows the total lightning moving through Odisha over the weekend. The yellow strikes represent cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. These are strikes that make contact with anything on the ground, including buildings, trees and other structures both natural or man-made. The purple strikes represent in-cloud lightning strikes.
Why does our unique ability to track in-cloud lightning strikes matter when it comes to protecting lives on the ground? In-cloud lightning accounts for about 80% of all lightning strikes and is often a precursor to other severe weather conditions like hail, heavy rains and even tornadoes.
Lightning Fatality Crisis
In this case in Odisha, lightning strikes killed nearly 48 people in 48 hours, while injuring 37 others. India loses thousands of people to lightning each year and Odisha accounts for approximately 300 of those deaths. 30 July had the highest number of lightning-related deaths in the state this year. Many of those who passed away were working in fields or seeking shelter under trees; both dangerous activities to be participating in during a thunderstorm. Lack of lightning safety awareness as well as the lack of advanced severe weather warnings are both partially to blame for this extreme loss of life.
The storm had the strongest impact on the northern districts of Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj. These districts also recorded the most lightning-related deaths: Bhadrak lost eight residents while Balasore and Mayurbhanj each lost seven. Among Balasore’s victims were two children in Soro Block.
The above image shows ENTLN generated a Dangerous Thunderstorm Alert on 31 July. This alert was in effect from 3:35 PM IST until 4:20 PM IST. Earth Networks issues DTA’s for a specific area that indicate approaching storms with a high frequency of lightning, heavy rain, hail and/or damaging winds. Along with our partner, Skymet, we are working to make these alerts more accessible to those who work and spend time outside in India. Their new Lightning Map provides real-time lightning data and alerts in India by integrating our total lightning detection.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his condolences to the families of the deceased on 1 August and called the accidents “unfortunate.” Many people in India, especially farmers, are demanding action from Modi and the rest of the government of India. Currently, the government gives out 400,000 rupees to each of the lightning victims’ families to provide relief; however, the people of India are looking for a preparedness plan so they can better protect themselves and their loved ones from nature’s top killer in India.