Pinellas County, in cooperation with the National Weather Service, is promoting Lightning Safety Awareness Week, from June 24 – 30.
With the many myths surrounding lightning and its dangers, Lightning Safety Awareness Week educates and raises awareness about the hazards of lightning in order to lower the number of deaths and injuries caused by lightning strikes.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), lightning is one of the most erratic and unpredictable characteristics of a thunderstorm. There have already been 5 lightning deaths to date this year in the United States, with two deaths occurring in Florida. In the ten-year period between 2008 and 2017, Florida has led the nation with 47 reported lightning deaths—more than twice as many deaths as Texas, the next highest state with 20 deaths.
Knowing and following proven lightning safety guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death.
- Most lightning victims are not struck during the worst of a thunderstorm but rather before or after the storm reaches its greatest intensity. This is because many people are unaware that lightning can strike as far as 25 miles away from its parent thunderstorm—much farther out from the area of rainfall within the storm.
- If thunder is heard, a person is within striking distance and should seek shelter immediately.
- A convenient way to remember this rule is to abide by the motto: When thunder roars, go indoors.
- Persons should also stay indoors until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard.
- People are urged to not wait for the rain to start before deciding to seek shelter, and they should not leave shelter just because the rain has ended.
The best way to protect from the dangers of thunderstorms is to be prepared. Residents with outdoor plans should familiarize themselves with the latest weather forecast before heading out, take a portable NOAA Weather Radio or AM/FM radio with them, and while outdoors, identify a nearby shelter in the event of a thunderstorm and estimate how long it would take to reach that shelter. A sturdy, enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring is safest, but, if one is not available, most enclosed metal vehicles are safe alternatives.
During outdoor activities, individuals are advised to keep an eye to the sky for developing thunderstorms. If thunder is heard, if lightning is seen, or even if thunderclouds are developing, they should get to a place of shelter without delay.
For more information about lightning safety, visit the National Weather Service’s website at www.weather.gov/safety/lightning.