Severe Weather Awareness: Lightning

Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 21:40:50-05

Nothing catches the eye of a weather geek more than lightning.

Seeing a towering cumulonimbus and its accompanying bolts can be mesmerizing.

...Florida knows that more than any other state.

We lead the U.S. in lightning strikes. Sadly, that also means we lead the nation in lightning fatalities.

Hundreds have been fatally struck in our state since 1959 with nearly 100 of those in south Florida.

The deadliest months are June, July and August. (Makes sense, doesn't it? That's our rainy season.)

Now this doesn't mean those are the only months we see lightning. In fact, a lightning fatality has been documented in 11 out of 12 months. The only month without a lightning death is January.



So, what do you do if caught outside and a storm is approaching? Simply put - go inside immediately.

Once inside stay off electrical equipment, avoid plumbing, windows and doors, and unplug major appliances.

If you can't get inside a building your next best bet is a vehicle.

Sometimes you're out in the middle of nowhere and can't get to either one. In those cases you get as far away from trees, bodies of water, and conductors of electricity as possible. Get to lower ground and stay as low to the ground as possible.

Bolts of lightning can travel more than 10 miles away from its parent storm, and in rare cases, lightning can strike without a thunderstorm near.

This is why the National Weather Service's lightning safety mantra is "when thunder roars, go indoors."

Do you know how to easily calculate the distance of a storm based off the time between thunder and lightning?

Sound travels at 1 mile in 5 seconds. So if you see lightning and 10 seconds later you hear thunder -- then the storm is 2 miles away.