NOAA 03-074
Contact: Curtis Carey
NOAA News Releases 2003
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NOAA and WUSA’s Washington Freedom Campaign To Alert Public

The official start of summer this week heralds the peak season for a deadly and yet dangerously misunderstood weather phenomena – lightning. In an effort to save lives, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) and Olympic Medalist Siri Mullinix, goalkeeper for the Women’s United Soccer Association’s (WUSA) Washington Freedom, are campaigning to alert the Nation to the dangers of lightning.

The campaign runs year round and kicks off during the nationwide Lightning Awareness Week (June 22-28). Officials said the campaign’s theme, “Lightning Kills, Play It Safe,” sends a strong, clear message.

“Lightning is an underrated killer, claiming more lives each year than tornadoes or hurricanes,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Little league coaches, parents and all outdoors enthusiasts should take a lesson from the pros. If the Washington Freedom can postpone play when lightning threatens so can we.”

Mullinix is featured in a national television public service announcement (PSA) that will air on stations around the country, as well as on safety posters designed for schools, stadiums and sporting goods stores.

Mullinix noted, “When lightning threatens a WUSA soccer game, play is called until the danger passes. If lightning threatens you, head indoors. Don’t get caught in striking distance!” The Mullinix PSA is also being shown during games on the RFK Stadium JumboTron, located in Washington, D.C.

Lightning casualties occur year-round, although the summer months are the most dangerous. Overall, 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year. From 1971 to 2000, lightning strikes killed an average of 73 people each year – compared with 68 tornado fatalities and 16 hurricane deaths.

“All thunderstorms have the potential to produce lightning, so it’s up to all of us to heed the warnings,” Lautenbacher said. “The bottom line is lightning can strike up to ten miles away from a thunderstorm, so if you hear thunder it’s time to take a break for safety’s sake.”

The NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source for weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The NOAA National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Copies of the lightning PSA, featuring Siri Mullinix, are available from Video Transfer, (301) 881-0270. The PSA is also available for TV stations from NOAA Public Affairs at (301) 713-0622.

On the Web:


NOAA National Weather Service:

Lightning Awareness Web sites for posters, graphics, survivor stories: