South Florida is known for its mild climate and beautiful beaches, but also as the lightning capitol of the world. June 24-30 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and the National Weather Service want to remind residents that “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”
Each year in the United States, an average of 58 people are killed by lightning. To date, there have been four lightning deaths in 2012 and on Friday, June 15, MDFR transported three patients struck by lightning in Homestead. Lightning is the deadliest weather hazard in Florida, claiming more lives than any other weather occurrence combined. In 2011, the state of Florida recorded 1,077,761 cloud-to-ground flashes.
Summer is the peak season for lightning. Therefore, next time a storm rolls in, please remember the following:
• No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
• When you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
• When outside, avoid being the tallest object.
• Don’t stand under or near an isolated tree or small group of trees.
• Get inside a sturdy structure before the storm approaches.
• Unplug all unnecessary appliances.
• Don’t use the telephone during a storm unless it’s an emergency.
• Don’t stand by open windows, doors or patios during a thunderstorm.
• Get out of boats and away from water.
• If a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard-topped automobile and keep the windows up.
• Don’t take a bath or shower during a thunderstorm.
• If you feel your skin tingle or your hairs stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground -- do not lie flat on the ground.
• If someone is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Residents of Miami-Dade County must also be aware of positive or “out-of-the blue” lightning. Lightning that originates at the top of a thunderstorm carries a positive charge. Positive lightning is particularly dangerous because:
• It frequently strikes away from the rain core, either ahead or behind the thunderstorm.
• It can strike as far as five to 10 miles from the storm, in areas that most people do not consider to be a lightning risk area.
• It has a longer duration, making fires more likely.
• It usually carries a high peak electrical current which increases the lightning risk to an individual.
According to the National Weather Service, 1,000 people are sent to the hospital annually for lightning-related injuries. These injuries can be life-long and debilitating.
For more information, please contact MDFR’s Public Affairs Bureau at 786-331-5200.