When it comes to outdoors hazards, the risk of being struck by lightning is usually low.
But Carl Mize has been hit by lightning six times and survived.
Mize, 53, of Noble, never has taken a direct hit from a bolt, but he has been zapped by volts from nearby strikes. He has been knocked unconscious and felt severe soreness in his muscles while recovering. But he has no permanent injuries he knows of.
“Never think that a storm is too far away,” Mize said. “Every time I've been hit the storms have seemed far away, but lightning can travel.”
July is the month when the most lightning strikes are reported.
Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman, said lightning is a natural phenomenon that may be “low probability for people but a high-impact event.”
“A lot of people think it's not going to happen to me,” Smith said.
Fishing is the activity that can put a person at the greatest risk for a lightning strike. Lightning can strike the water, a boat, a tree or a pole nearby and send a sideways shock to those nearby.
The most basic advice is to go indoors during a thunderstorm.
“If you hear thunder or see lightning, get inside,” Smith said. “That's the absolute way not to get struck by lightning.”
So far this year, seven deaths from lightning strikes have been reported nationwide. Two people died in Florida, two in Illinois, and one each in Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. Most victims were near or on water.
In Oklahoma, one lightning death was reported in 2005, two in 2003 and one in 2002.
‘I'm more conductive'
Each time Mize was struck, the lightning hit an object near him and the electricity traveled into his body.
He is a utility foreman in Norman who works for a private company now but previously worked for the University of Oklahoma, maintaining all the streetlights and traffic signals on the Norman campus. His work takes him around heavy metal pipe, electric cables and other equipment. Coupled with the fact he lives and works in central Oklahoma, he says he is more at risk than others.
“I'm more conductive,” he said.
Mize was a bull rider in Claremore in 1978 when lighting struck just as he grabbed the handle on his pickup. He was moving a portable building in Noble in 1994 when lightning hit nearby as he was holding a pry bar.
He was struck in 1999 near Lexington while holding a metal chain on a playground swing, in 2005 while working at OU and in 2006 while putting a tarp over a bale of hay.
He was repairing a streetlight Aug. 9, 1996, when a lightning strike knocked him unconscious.
Smith said 90 percent of people struck by lightning survive with injuries.
In Oklahoma, it's tough to convince people to worry about thunderstorms when tornadoes, floods and other weather-related events are so deadly.
“Thunderstorms are so common here, it's difficult to convince people that a lightning strike in a storm could be the one that strikes you,” Smith said.
But not Mize. He gets indoors when he sees a storm cloud. Friends and family from home and out of state text or call him when they hear there might be a storm.
He doesn't want it to happen a seventh time.
“I keep thinking now that there might not be a next time,” Mize said.