The Villages Voice - June 2015

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by Len Hathaway

LIGHTNING SAFETY By Len Hathaway Lightning is one of the most underrated severe weather hazards, yet it ranks as one of the top weather killers. Here in The Villages we are living in “the lightning capital of the nation.” Florida typically ranks as the number one state in lightning deaths and injuries each year.  All thunderstorms produce lightning. If you hear thunder you are in danger, as lightning may be closer than you think.   To focus attention on lightning safety, the National Weather Service (NWS) conducts an annual campaign called Lightning Safety Awareness Week.  This year the dates are June 21-27, in advance of the summer lightning season across the country. For Villagers, we can and do experience lightning year round, but it begins to ramp up in May.  The NWS data shows that for our area we experience on average 80 thunderstorm days per year.  Last summer was particularly active as we had 110 thunderstorm days.  Fortunately, there were no fatalities but according to the Daily Sun two construction workers were slightly injured on a concrete pour in July.  Three homeowners had their homes destroyed by lightning and an unknown number of homeowners experienced lightning surge damage to their appliances and electronic equipment costing collectively many thousands of dollars. Lightning Awareness – Plan Ahead The NWS lightning awareness campaign is focused on planning ahead to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Listen to the local weather forecast
  • Plan ahead and know where to go for shelter
  • Take action early so that you can quickly get to shelter
While no place is entirely safe from lightning you should seek shelter in a substantial building which can be your own home.  Even when you are in your home (or substantial building) you are not entirely safe from lightning and should avoid:
  • Plumbing including taking a shower during a thunderstorm
  • Electrical equipment
  • Corded telephones – unless of course there is an emergency - (cell and portable telephones are not wire-connected telephones)
  • Windows
Places that are not safe include being near trees, fences, dugouts, lakes, swimming pools, picnic areas, pickleball courts, tennis courts, softball fields, golf courses, open fields, flag poles, picnic shelters, fishing, light poles, bleachers, etc. Remember lightning is UNPREDICTABLE and does not always strike the tallest object in your area. A hard topped all metal vehicle also qualifies as safe refuge from lightning provided that the windows are closed and you are not touching any metal parts in the vehicle.  Golf carts, motorcycles, convertibles, and bicycles are not safe during a thunderstorm. After the storm passes An integral part of the NWS awareness campaign, WHEN THUNDER ROARS, GO INDOORS, is to wait 30 minutes after the last sighting of lightning or rubble of thunder.  Lightning has been known to strike outside of the rain area from up to ten miles away.  In some cases this has occurred even after the clouds have departed and the sun has come out.  This is sometimes referred to as “a strike from the blue.”  Lightning 101 If your club, organization, church, or civic group would benefit from a free community service non-commercial Power Point presentation, Lightning Tips for Villagers, that addresses personal lightning safety, lightning protection systems (rods), lightning surges to electronic equipment, the susceptibility of corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) gas pipe to lightning, and debunking nine common lightning myths contact  Len Hathaway at LHATHA@AOL.COM or  Bob Freeman at STALIT1@AOL.COM.