TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — National Lightning Safety Week is underway and runs through June 25.
Lightning is an underrated killer, which is especially scary for Floridians, being that the state is the lightning capitol of the country in terms of density.
When a thunderstorm is in the area, it is not safe to be outside. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles or more away from the nearest rain drop. A “bolt from the blue” are lightning strikes that seem to appear out of the blue sky, but in reality, they originate from a nearby storm, even if you can’t see it.
Always remember these phrases, “when thunder roars, go indoors,” or “see a flash, dash inside.”
To calculate how far a bolt struck from your location, use the five second per mile rule. As soon as you see a flash of lightning, begin counting until you hear the thunder. Every five seconds equals one mile. For example, if you count 15 seconds between when you see the lighting and hear the thunder, that bolt struck three miles away from you. If there is less than five seconds in between the two, the lighting was less than one mile away.
Keep in mind that sound dissipates as it travels outward from the source. This means that if you never end up hearing the thunder…it just means the lighting was more than 10 miles away. The term ‘heat lightning’ is often used to describe this phenomena. There is no such thing as lightning caused by heat, it is strictly a thunderstorm much farther away from your location producing lightning but it is too far for the sound the travel.
From 2006 to 2018, outdoor activities with the most deaths included fishing, walking on the beach, camping, farming, boating, etc. When separated by gender, 80% of fatality victims were male and just 20% were female. This number is likely skewed due to a higher number of males participating in outdoor activities in general.
The number of lightning fatalities has come down in the past 50 years due to awareness and practicing lightning safety.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself if to take cover at the first sign of lightning or sound of thunder. Move inside a sturdy structure but avoid plumbing and water usage. Avoid using electronics and stay away from windows and off porches.
Do not lean on concrete walls either as electricity can travel through any metal in the walls like rebar.