When lightning strikes and thunder roars, go indoors!
This year, summer begins on Thursday, June 21, but severe weather and summer thunderstorms don’t wait until the solstice. Across Northwest Florida, thunderstorms and lightning have been a common daily occurrence this spring that can turn deadly or cause grave injury if not taken seriously.
Because of the threat to both lives and infrastructure, the National Weather Service has set aside June 24-30 as Lightning Safety Awareness week to help inform people of the proper precautions to take during severe weather outbreaks.
“During the summer months, along with the possible recent tropical storms like Alberto, pop-up thunder storms become more frequent,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “We want to make sure our customers stay safe and aware of the dangers associated with these sometimes damaging and potentially deadly storms. The best course of action to take is If you hear thunder, immediately move indoors.”
According to the National Weather Service, lightning is one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States and something you never expect to happen to you. Like the two people in Panama City recently injured from lightning strikes during the same storm.
In Panama City, two 16-year old twin brothers were reportedly finishing their last few lawn-cutting jobs before heading out for vacation. With the threat of severe storms approaching, their dad called them to pack up their equipment and head home. And that’s when it happened.The boys were heading inside from mowing when the early-morning storm struck. Walking one behind the other, the brother in the front heard a loud crash and turned to see the unthinkable—his twin lying on the ground, unresponsive after being struck by lightning. According to reports, a neighbor performed CPR on the high-school student until medical help arrived and transported him to the hospital.
Farther west near Rosemary Beach, William Young, a local landscaper, was talking with his supervisor waiting for the same storm to pass when he saw a bright flash then watched as current from the lightning traveled up the walls and floor and straight up his legs.
“I thought I was fine and the next minute I was hit,” said Young in an interview with the Panama City News Herald.
Young went to the emergency room as a precaution and while not injured, it underscores the dangers associated with thunderstorms. Although the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are only around 1 in 500,000, some factors can put you at greater risk. However, every year, lightning kills an average of 47 peoplein the United States and hundreds more are severely injured. This year alone for example, five people have already been killed by lightning, two of whom were in Florida, which has been named the “lightning strike capital” of the country, with more than 3,500 lightning strikes per day.
So how do you keep safe during a storm? Here are tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionto protect yourself if you are caught outdoors or lighting is close by:
Safety precautions outdoors
- If the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity.
- Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. Find a safe, enclosed shelter.
- The main lightning safety guide is the 30-30 rule. After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
- If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly from over 100 feet away.
- Stay away from concrete floors or walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring. Although you should move into a non-concrete structure if possible, being indoors does not automatically protect you from lightning. In fact, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.
- Do not seek shelter under a tree or near tall objects. Lightning will search for the tallest point in an area to strike, and if you are in that area you will be in danger. With that in mind, you don’t want to be the tallest point in an area, so do not go to an open field or park.
- Finally, do not go near any bodies of water, such as a pond, lake, swimming pool or open body of water such as the beach.
After the storm
If a storm causes damage, Gulf Power crews will restore power as quickly as it’s safe to work.
Remember these additional safety tips:
- Never touch any downed wire or low hanging wires.
- Never pull tree limbs off power, telephone or cable lines or attempt to repair electrical equipment damaged in a storm.
- Stay clear from downed power lines and not to drive over them. Always assume a downed power line is “live” and life-threatening. If you see a downed line, call 911 and warn others to stay away.
- Never go near chain link fences – downed power lines or lightning strikes may energize the entire length of the fence.
- Never walk into areas where crews are at work. If driving near work crews, obey road signs and proceed cautiously. Florida’s “Move Over” law requires motorists to move or yield right-of-way to emergency, utility, tow trucks and sanitation vehicles. If you can’t move over, motorists should slow down to 20 miles less than the posted speed limit.
- Customers can also protect their appliances and electronics with one of Gulf Power’s affordable Surge Protection
“Customers can keep updated on outages caused by storms through our mobile app,” added DelaHaya. “The app is free and available for iPhone and Android. Just search for ‘Gulf Power’ in iTunes or the Google Play Store.”