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The threat of severe thunderstorms from eastern Texas through the Carolinas this holiday weekend has weather watchers issuing a stern warning: When the thunder roars, get indoors.
It's especially pertinent advice in July, when most fatal lightning strikes typically occur, according to the National Weather Service. Already this year, there have been 15 deaths in the U.S. from lightning strikes, and the number could easily surge past last year's total of 26, the agency warns.
The instances of lightning strikes reached a fevered pitch on Thursday night. In Horry County, South Carolina — home to Myrtle Beach — meteorologists counted 732 lightning strikes in only a 15-minute span.
The shocking number comes after reports of other deadly lightning strikes across the country. In one incident in Fayette County, West Virginia, last month, a 17-year-old boy was killed and two others were injured when lightning hit them while they were fishing on a pond.
Last Sunday, a hiker was struck by lightning on Colorado's Mount Bierstadt, west of Denver, but miraculously survived when his dog took the brunt of the bolt. Rambo, the hiker's dog, was killed.
"All I remember is just a light … just a bright light hitting the ground and then I just fell," said hiker Jonathan Hardman. "Then I got up and everybody was on the ground crying and screaming."
For custom home builders such as Brian Brumfield, the anxiety over lightning strikes has created a demand for metallic conductors.
Brumfield, of Nags Head, North Carolina, says installing lightning rods can be just as necessary for some homeowners as having central air conditioning.
Lightning strikes are "very common and all the time, and it's just a matter of seconds," Brumfield told NBC News on Friday. "If you hear it, you're too close. And if you notice last night, we had a lot of lightning and all through the evening it was rolling thunder the whole time."
For buildings, the lightning can cause major fire damage. That appears to be the case with a historically black South Carolina church that was destroyed Tuesday. The cause of the destruction has been classified as "natural," officials said Thursday, after there were reports of lightning strikes in the area that night.
Brumfield said that lightning protection systems can be a best bet for keeping a home safe. When the lightning hits the rod on the roof, the electrical charge is carried through the house in a safe manner.
The charge goes "through this copper wire, 8 feet into the ground, where it dissipates," Brumfield explained.
He added: "It puts a lot of peace in your mind to know that your house is safe when you're not here."