Weather Blog: Lightning protection for the week for severe weather

Weather Blog: Lightning protection for the week for severe weather

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It’s been a week for severe weather in Florida.

Here’s what you need to know to protect against lightning.

Lightning! It can be a great sight from afar. But it is also unpredictable, dangerous and can be fatal.

Florida averages 1,170,979 lightning bolts per year!

Unfortunately, this is the state with the most lightning strikes and usually the most lightning strikes per year. In 2018, 20 people died from lightning in the United States, including 7 in Florida.

(Map courtesy of National Weather Service)

The image below shows the number of lightning deaths in the United States from 2008 to 2017.

(Map courtesy of National Weather Service)

Why is Florida the “Lightning Capital of the United States”? It is due to our geography and the nature of lightning.

By now you are probably familiar with our daily summer thunderstorms. We can – and do – get thunderstorms any time of the year, but the peak here is from June to September.

Florida is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water. As the sun warms the land, sea breezes and other boundaries form.

The rising air creates thunderclouds. Ice crystals and water droplets collide in the cloud and are charged: positive at the top of the cloud and negative at the bottom. The ground and objects on the ground are positively charged.

Lightning arises as a discharge between positive and negative charges. Most lightning strikes in the clouds are negative. The positive ones are very dangerous because they start in the top of the thundercloud and can happen far from the heaviest rain.

Although we have made great strides in weather forecasting and technology in recent decades, we still cannot predict where or when the next lightning strike will occur. So how can you stay safe?

Here’s a tip: when you hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning! Lightning can even be more than 10 miles from the thunderstorm. So while it may not rain where you are, you can still be in danger.

At the first sign of lightning or thunder, you should immediately enter a building and stay away from windows.

The most dangerous spot is in an open area, because lightning tends to hit the tallest object in the area. Do not stand under a tree! And stay away from water.

If there is no building nearby, get in a hard roof car.

Wait 30 minutes after hearing the thunder before going out again. The onset and end of the storms are usually the deadliest.

Teach your kids that “When the thunder roars, go in!” It is never safe to be outside during a thunderstorm.

Here’s another tip:

The thunder travels at the speed of sound, about 1 mile every 5 seconds. You can find out how far lightning is from your location by counting the number of seconds between seeing a lightning strike and hearing a thunderstorm. For every 5 seconds you count, lightning is a mile away. So if the thunderstorm takes 15 seconds to reach you, the lightning strike is about three miles away. Time to enter!

Also, the Spectrum Bay News 9 app alerts you when lightning is near your location. So whether you’re on the football field or swimming in the pool, you can receive alerts that protect you wherever you are. It’s free and available from Google Play and the Apple App Store: http://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/about/app-center

So if you can’t see our Weather on the Nines for updates, you can still get the weather information you need on our app and website.

Florida is a beautiful and fun place to live. If you are aware of the changing weather and take some precautions, you can stay safe while enjoying the beauty of Tampa Bay.

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