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Chances for lots of lightning today may mean no outdoor sports for some

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Posted at 10:04 AM, May 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-12 16:10:17-04

Will my son or daughter have soccer practice tonight?

That's the question some parents throughout the U.S. are asking ahead of severe storms expected today that may include high winds and lots of lightning.

"A long line of storms stretching the entire country is making its way across the Midwest and through the southern states today," said Storm Shield Meteorologist Jason Meyers.

Storms are striking now and will move East through the evening, Meyers said.

Parents concerned about lightning should download Lightning Cast, an app that provides warnings when lightning strikes nearby.

There are two regions that are potential storm hotspots today — one includes Michigan, Ohio and Indiana; the other stretches across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and southwest Tennessee.

"Wind is possible for everyone in the risk area, but large hail is more likely in southern Texas and there's a tornado possibility across the three Midwest states," Meyers said.

WCPO in Southwest Ohio said residents should expect storms in the afternoon and evening hours; they'll move out around 9 p.m. ET. Michigan residents also face the threat of storms this afternoon, according to wxyz.com.

Strong storms for central Indiana are most likely from 2-9 p.m. today. The threat of tornados cannot be ruled out, according to RTV6.

Dangers of lightning
Lightning strikes can stop the heart, concuss the brain and cook you from the inside out.

But they’re rare — and surprisingly survivable.

“It has a very wide spectrum of injury,” said surgeon Carl I. Schulman, director of the William Lehman Injury Research Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “It can put you into a cardiac or respiratory arrest. It’s not often associated with large skin burns unless it hits something nearby like a metal object that causes a big flash.”

Lightning strikes are among the most common causes of weather-related death, though the chance of getting struck is only about 1 in 500,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But many people don’t report a lightning strike, said David Mozingo, a surgeon and director of the University of Florida Health Burn Center. That may be because people who are struck by lightning don’t realize it — they experience a sudden cardiac arrest and then don't make the connection.

“It’s hard for them to categorize how many people were stuck by lightning because it’s not always reported,” Mozingo said.

How badly a lightning strike injures depends on the strength of the bolt, where it hits and how well the victim is grounded.

Many strike injuries are indirect — a person is standing by a set of golf clubs that gets struck, for instance, and they’re hit by an indirect flash. Large skin burns are possible if the flash catches them on fire.

There can also be secondary trauma due to being thrown from the blast or falling down. That can happen to roofers or construction workers, said Doreann Dearmas, a nurse practitioner at the University of Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center.

Most burns occur where the victim is wearing a metal object, like a necklace, rings or belt buckle. On their skin, they can experience burns that appear like the branches of a tree, called an Arborizing pattern.

“It seems like a contradiction since the energy in a lightning bolt is quite high,” Mozingo said. “But the actual current tends to go around the patient instead of going through the patient.”

Scripps National Desk writers Gavin Stern and Jason Meyers contributed to this report.