Spotlight on Health: Lightning Safety!

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on July 9th, 2015.

With summer fun in Florida comes summer thunderstorms, which brings along a serious safety threat: lightning. Florida leads the U.S. in lightning-related deaths, and the area from Tampa to Titusville is even known as “Lightning Alley” by meteorologists. Central Florida thunderstorms alone generate hundreds of thousands of bolts that cause billions in damage each year. To help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy, we rounded up some lighting myths and facts from the National Weather Service.

Myth: If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.
Fact: Crouching doesn’t make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.

You can read other myths and facts by visiting the National Weather Service website. If you do get stuck in the event of a serious storm, consider staying inside until it passes. There are also many apps you can download on your smart phone that will keep you up to date with the weather, and maybe give you a heads-up that it’s not yet safe to head to your car. If it’s really bad outside, better to be a little late then risk your safety.


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