NWS Juneau Lightning Page
The National Weather Service in Juneau has developed this page to promote lightning safety and education. More deadly than hurricanes or tornadoes, each year in the U.S. lightning kills an average of 54 people with hundreds permanently injured. Lightning deaths and injuries are unusual in Alaska, but not unheard of. In 1986, a teenage girl was killed and three other people injured near Tok when they took shelter under a tree. In 1993, a young man was injured by lightning while standing on a ball field in North Pole, Alaska.
Thunderstorms and lightning are rare in Southeast Alaska when compared with the Alaskan Interior and most of the Lower 48. Usually they are observed along the Outer Coast as strong cold fronts move in from the Gulf of Alaska. Interestingly, these storms can occur during the winter months as well as during summer. On some occasions thunderstorms can develop or spread over the Inner Channels of the Panhandle. The last time this occurred was in June of 2000 when outbreak of scattered thunderstorms moved through the Juneau area.
Lightning is responsible for about 97 percent of the acreage lost to wildfires in Alaska. BLM sensors positioned across the interior have located an average of 26,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year. Very active thunderstorm days may feature 2,000 to 5,000 lightning strikes, mainly occurring during the late afternoon hours in late June and early July. The most active thunderstorm area in Alaska, based on cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, is the White Mountains north of Fairbanks.
In Southeast Alaska, the risk of wildfire due to lightning strikes is much less prevalent than in the Interior. However, the risk to boaters on the water, hikers in the mountains and sports enthusiasts on ball fields and golf courses is much more significant.
H.M. Ship SURINAM struck by lightning off the coast of France December 11, 1906. Lightning "struck the mainmast and split it in pieces." Two crewmen were killed and four injured. The ship was in grave danger of drifting onto a lee shore. Taken from "The Thunder-Storm", Charles Thomlinson, F.R.S., 1877, p. 174.
Some Lightning Safety Tips for Southeast AlaskaBoating lightning safety:
For more information on lightning check these out:
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Questions or Comments? Contact our Warning Coordination Meteorologist: Joel Curtis