BRANDON – Not only is Florida known as the lightning capital of the United States, it has the highest number of deaths from lightning – 10 to 13 per year out of an average of 100 deaths – nationwide. Almost all of those Florida deaths happen from late May through the end of September.
The most dangerous area of the state is between St. Augustine and Lake Okeechobee, flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
These details, from University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, place the greater Brandon area in the danger zone. That can spell trouble for athletes and others enjoying outdoor activities.
Lightning can travel from cloud to ground, ground to cloud, cloud to cloud and between points within a cloud. Contrary to popular understanding, it does not always take the most-direct route and can strike 10 miles from its origin.
Count the seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder: five equals about a mile.
Since lightning travels much faster than the speed of sound, “when thunder roars, go indoors,” advises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
If outdoors, rubber-soled shoes, picnic shelters and dugouts will not shield a person from a lightning strike.
A car with a metal roof and closed windows is better protection, but the safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a building with wiring or plumbing.
Even there, however, people should stay away from windows, doors, porches and concrete floors and walls. A strike’s current can travel through a building’s wiring or plumbing, so avoid corded phones, electrical equipment and cords, sinks and showers.
For more about lightning, visit www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.
Barbara Routen, [email protected]