Two workers survive lightning strikes in Broward County on the same day

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - A landscape worker and a crane operator survived separate lightning strikes in Broward County on Monday afternoon, fire rescue officials said.

Though Florida has the most lightning strikes in the country, it's not very common to have two separate incidents in different parts of the county on the same day, said Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami.

"Usually with multiple injuries or people being hit, it's from the same bolt," Molleda said. He said a storm with lightning moved through Deerfield before 3 p.m., followed by a weaker storm about 3:35 p.m.

"But it only takes one strike," the meteorologist said.

Monday's first strike, at 2 p.m., injured a man who was performing lawn maintenance at Indian Ridge Middle School, at 1355 Nob Hill Road in Davie.

"He's dazed and confused, and a little shook up, but in good condition," Davie Fire Rescue Assistant Fire Marshal Bob Taylor said. The unidentified 38-year-old man was taken to an area hospital.

The worker had been weeding and was near a chain-link fence at the school that may have been struck by lightning, Taylor said. "Current went from the fence, and we're not sure if he was leaning against it."

Two hours later in Deerfield Beach near the Palm Beach County line, a crane operator at the Dixie Flyover highway construction site was also injured by lightning.

"The crane operator was working a remote-control device that was attached to the crane," Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue Chief Chad Brocato said. "The crane was struck by lightning and current traveled down it and struck the operator."

Brocato said the crane operator suffered burns to his abdomen and right arm.

"He is in stable condition for the most part. Other than having first-degree burns, there was no blistering," Brocato said. The unidentified man was taken to North Broward Medical Center for treatment.

He is an employee of Cone & Graham, lead contractor at the Flyover site, Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Barbara Kelleher said.

"He was driving sheet metal piling [into the ground]," Kelleher said. "Sound and vibration would prompt him to operate it from outside the cab."

A crane boom can act like a giant lightning rod that attracts dangerous current, Molleda of the National Weather Service explained.

"It's extending pretty high up and is an easier target," he said. "The metal, just like the chain-link fence, conducts electricity. It's happened before."

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