Lighting Up in Skies: Lightning in Florida
Updated: Nov 3
While you probably have heard that Florida is notorious for its hurricanes, you might not know that Florida is also considered the lightning capital of the United States, While there are nuances to the rankings that include the differentiation between lightning flashes and strikes, the flash rates, the density of population and fatalities caused by lightning strikes, the bottom line is that the Sunshine State has a huge number of people who are struck and killed by lightning each year.
There are several reasons for the bounty of beautiful and frightening lightning in Florida, especially in a corridor between Tampa and Orlando that is known as "Lightning Alley". These include the fact that Florida is surrounded by the Gulf and Atlantic Oceans, which provide sea breezes that affect temperature and humidity and creates the perfect storm (excuse the pun), for lightning to form,
The high number of fatalities due to the cloud to ground strikes is attributed to Florida's high population density plus the fact that many people are engaged in outdoor recreation and activities. So, locals don't mess around with lightning storms - sports events stop and wait at least half an hour at the first sign of lightning, and boaters are extra vigilant about reports and changes in the weather.
According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), you can be struck by lightning even if there are blue skies, or if you only hear thunder and see no lightning. It's not safe outdoors when there is lightning. Also, it's not enough just to seek shelter because lightning travels through wires and plumbing, NOAA advises you to stay clear of electrical equipment, plumbing, and corded phones (do these still exist?), That means, no baths, showers or even dish washing during a storm. Don't worry, all is not lost because, it's supposedly safe to be on cellular and cordless phones. Also, for you lightning lovers, being indoors doesn't count standing on your covered patio.
If you are stuck in your hard-topped vehicle (convertibles will not work since its the metal roof, not the rubber tires that protect you), pull over, close your windows and don't touch the electrical devices. If you are outdoors with absolutely no opportunity to seek shelter, stay away from open areas and metal conductors such as wires or fences which could pick up an electrical current from a strike further away and send it your way. If there are a group of you, spread out to prevent multiple casualties. If someone is struck, call 9-1-1 and perform CPR immediately.
The best thing to do to avoid getting caught in a lightning storm is to monitor the weather and take it seriously.
Texas and Kansas are included in the list of states in the U.S. that have the most lightning strikes.
The country with the most lightning in the world is Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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