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Rancher and more than 30 cows killed in Colorado lightning strike

A lightning strike in Colorado killed a rancher and 34 of his cows in Jackson County on Saturday, adding to the death toll of devastating storms that have swept across the US over Memorial Day weekend.

The strike killed 51-year-old Mike Morgan on his property in Rand, about 120 miles northwest of Denver, at the end of “branding day,” when members of the community typically pitch in to help brand cattle, according news outlets. He was feeding cattle hay when the bolt hit him and knocked around 100 cows off their feet. An initial 911 call was placed about 2am MT.

“The 32 cattle did not get back up,” coroner George Crocket told The Colorado Sun. “As best I can tell, it hit him on the trailer. The cattle were bunched up around the trailer and it hit them all.”

The National Weather Service had warned that a storm was moving across the Front Range Urban Corridor and urged people to go inside upon hearing thunder. Morgan’s death comes as at least 21 other people died over Memorial Day weekend in storms and tornadoes that hit the central US.

A man and over 30 cows were killed in a Colorado lightning strike on Saturday
A man and over 30 cows were killed in a Colorado lightning strike on Saturday (PA Archive)

Despite the tragedy, deadly lightning strikes remain rare. There are about 50 lightning fatalities a year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates, and the odds of being struck by lightning are one in a million. Ninety percent of victims survive.

But working outside can put you at greater risk. Data from the US Centers of Disease and Control shows that there were 444 lightning strike deaths in the US between 2006 and 2021, with deaths being most common in the summer.

Florida, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have reported the most lightning deaths and injuries.

Florida is considered to be the “lightning capital” of the US, with more than 2,000 lightning-related injuries occuring there in the past 50 years.

Since 2006, only five states: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Washington and the US Virgin Islands have reported zero deaths.


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