SEVERE WEATHER ALERT:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Florida Lightning Awareness Day

LIGHTNING IS ONE OF NATURES DEADLIEST AND MOST UNPREDICTABLE
PHENOMENA.  THE CENTRAL FLORIDA PENINSULA IS THE MOST ACTIVE
LIGHTNING HOTSPOT IN NORTH AMERICA WITH THUNDERSTORMS OCCURRING
ALMOST DAILY FROM LATE MAY THROUGH EARLY OCTOBER.  WE CANNOT CONTROL
THEM...SO IT IS CRITICAL TO RECOGNIZE THE THREAT LIGHTNING POSES TO
LIFE AND HEALTH.

WHETHER A THUNDERSTORM PRODUCES 10 BOLTS OR 10,000 BOLTS...THEY ALL
ARE POTENTIAL KILLERS. A DISTANT...DEVELOPING...OR WEAK THUNDERSTORM
MAY NOT APPEAR THREATENING...BUT STATISTICS INDICATE OTHERWISE.
STUDIES HAVE DISCOVERED THAT STORMS WITH INTENSE LIGHTNING TEND TO
STRIKE FEWER PEOPLE THAN STORMS THAT ONLY PRODUCE OCCASIONAL
LIGHTNING. THIS IRONIC FACT SUGGESTS THAT PEOPLE RECOGNIZE THE
LIGHTNING THREAT ASSOCIATED WITH STRONG STORMS BUT FAIL TO PERCEIVE
THAT VERY SAME THREAT WITH WEAKER ONES.

ONE CHARACTERISTIC THAT MAKES LIGHTNING SO DANGEROUS IS ITS EXTENSIVE
RANGE. OF ALL THUNDERSTORM THREATS...ONLY LIGHTNING HAS THE ABILITY
TO STRIKE OUTSIDE THE STORM PERIPHERY...MAKING IT THE FIRST STORM
HAZARD TO ARRIVE AND THE LAST TO LEAVE. LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE MORE
THAN 10 MILES FROM ITS PARENT STORM. BY CONTRAST...MOST THUNDER IS
INAUDIBLE BEYOND 10 MILES. THEREFORE...IF YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER...YOU
ARE ALREADY AT RISK.

THE OTHER CHARACTERISTICS THAT MAKES LIGHTNING SO DANGEROUS ARE ITS
TREMENDOUS POWER AND SPEED. THE AVERAGE BOLT CARRIES 20 THOUSAND
AMPS OF ELECTRIC CHARGE...100 MILLION VOLTS OF ELECTRIC
POTENTIAL...AND GENERATES A TEMPERATURE THAT CAN EXCEED 50 THOUSAND
DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. FURTHERMORE...ALL THIS ENERGY IS CONCENTRATED IN
A CHANNEL WITH A DIAMETER NO LARGER THAN A U.S. QUARTER. THIS ENERGY
DENSITY IS UNMATCHED IN THE HUMAN WORLD...EVEN INSIDE A NUCLEAR
REACTOR. FURTHERMORE...IT TRAVELS AT SPEEDS THAT APPROACH FOUR
THOUSAND MILES PER SECOND.

THE INSTANTANEOUS NATURE OF A LIGHTNING STRIKE MEANS YOU CANNOT AVOID
A STRIKE THE SAME WAY YOU WOULD A TORNADO OR HURRICANE. OUTRUNNING A
LIGHTNING BOLT IS NOT AN OPTION. FEW LIGHTNING SURVIVORS REMEMBER
EVEN BEING STRUCK...LET ALONE REMEMBER SEEING THE BOLT THAT STRUCK
THEM. 
 

LIGHTNING IS MOST DANGEROUS NEAR THE EDGE OF A STORM BECAUSE PEOPLE
OFTEN ASSOCIATE ITS THREAT WITH PEAK RAINFALL. HOWEVER...STUDIES
HAVE SHOWN THE MAJORITY OF LIGHTNING VICTIMS ARE NOT STRUCK DURING
THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM AS ONE MIGHT EXPECT. INSTEAD...THEY ARE
STRUCK BEFORE THE STORM REACHES ITS PEAK BECAUSE PEOPLE DO NOT SEEK
SHELTERS QUICKLY ENOUGH...OR SHORTLY AFTER THE RAIN HAS ENDED
BECAUSE PEOPLE LEAVE SHELTER TOO SOON.

ABSOLUTELY NO PLACE OUTDOORS IS SAFE FROM LIGHTNING. IN FLORIDA...
MOST PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN STRUCK WERE NEAR A BODY OF WATER.
THEREFORE...PEOPLE VISITING THE BEACH OR INVOLVED IN ANY WATER
ACTIVITIES NEED TO PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO LOCAL WEATHER
CONDITIONS. OTHER VULNERABLE LOCATIONS INCLUDE OPEN AREAS SUCH AS
ATHLETIC FIELDS...PLAYGROUNDS...OR GOLF COURSES.

NO ONE CAN PREDICT WHERE LIGHTNING WILL STRIKE...BUT FORECASTERS CAN
PREDICT THE CONDITIONS THAT WILL PRODUCE IT. WHILE THE NATIONAL
WEATHER SERVICE DOES NOT ISSUE LIGHTNING WARNINGS...PRODUCTS SUCH AS
THE GRAPHICAL HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK DESCRIBE IN DETAIL THE DAILY
LIGHTNING THREAT ON A SCALE RANGING FROM NONE TO EXTREME.

IN ADDITION...SHORT TERM WEATHER FORECASTS INFORM WHEN AND WHERE
STORMS ARE FORMING OR ARE EXPECTED TO FORM...WHILE SPECIAL WEATHER
STATEMENTS ARE ISSUED TO WARN WHEN A STORM IS PRODUCING OR EXPECTED
TO PRODUCE EXCESSIVE LIGHTNING. THESE PRODUCTS ARE AVAILABLE TO THE
GENERAL PUBLIC THROUGH THE INTERNET AND THE NOAA WEATHER RADIO AND
SHOULD PLAY A CRITICAL ROLE IN DETERMINING WHETHER OUTDOOR
ACTIVITIES SHOULD BE DELAYED OR CANCELLED.

IF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES ARE PLANNED...GET CONTINUOUS WEATHER UPDATES IF
THUNDERSTORMS ARE PREDICTED. BE PREPARED TO TAKE SHELTER INSIDE AN
ENCLOSED BUILDING IF A THUNDERSTORM APPROACHES OR FORMS NEARBY.
PEOPLE SHOULD HEAD INSIDE WHEN DARKENING CLOUDS APPEAR...EVEN IF
THUNDER HAS NOT BEEN DETECTED.

IF THUNDER IS DETECTED...HALT OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IMMEDIATELY AND MOVE
INDOORS. REMAIN INDOORS UNTIL 30 MINUTES AFTER THE LAST CLAP OF
THUNDER IS HEARD. PICNIC PAVILIONS...BASEBALL DUGOUTS...BEACH
SHACKS...AND ISOLATED TREES SHOULD BE AVOIDED. IF AN ENCLOSED
BUILDING IS NOT AVAILABLE...THEN AN ENCLOSED METAL VEHICLE IS THE
NEXT BEST ALTERNATIVE. CONVERTIBLE AUTOMOBILES AND GOLF CARTS DO NOT
PROVIDE LIGHTNING PROTECTION.

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