According to Daniel Noah, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, there are, on average, 1,170,979 flashes of lightning in Florida each year. Because Brandon area residents see lightning so often, it is easy to forget how much damage it can do.
“Lightning in Florida has caused $39.8 million in damage to 284 properties over the last 10 years,” said Noah, not including the recent apartment fire in Riverview which was likely caused by one of two lightning strikes in the area.
“There have been 47 lightning deaths and 281 injuries during that time and the longterm average in Florida is nine fatalities and 40 injuries a year.”
In June, 33-year-old Seffner resident, James Barton, was at Siesta Beach with friends when he was suddenly struck by lightning and killed.
The majority of injuries from lightning occur when people are engaging in leisure activities outside. The National Weather Service (NWS) offers one main tip for people to avoid being hurt.
“There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area,” said Noah. “If you hear thunder you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember. ‘When thunder roars, go indoors.”
The NWS Website, at www.weather.org, offers a large variety of tips about lightning and how to reduce its risk, but three featured rules go along way to helping residents stay safe.
Rule number one states that residents should plan ahead so as not to get caught outside in a thunderstorm. The second rule advises that upon hearing thunder, residents get inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle immediately and finally, rule three states that it is important to wait 30 minutes after the last lightning or thunder before going back outside.
In addition, the NWS recommends that residents know that even inside the home, they are not totally safe from lighting.
According to the Website, anything that is plugged into a wall outlet can become electrified by a nearby lighting strike. It recommends that residents stay off electrical equipment, appliances and corded phones and avoid contact with plumbing, including sinks and tubs, during storms.
The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), a nationwide not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to promote lightning protection education, awareness and safety, works with builders and homeowners to promote lightning safety and improve the science of lightning protection. The group’s Website, at www.lightning.org, offers extensive information about protection from lightning strikes.
“A lightning protection system is a network of components designed to intercept a lightning strike and provide a preferred path to the ground,” said LPI Communications Director Kimberly Loehr. “The system discharges the dangerous electricity, leaving occupants and the structure safe from harm.”