Volume 5 Number 6
February 8, 2008

FLORIDA'S HAZARDOUS WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK

Hazardous Weather Awareness Week
takes place from February 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “8 Days in ’08” and recognizes the one year anniversary of the Groundhog Day tornadoes that struck Sumter, Lake, and Volusia counties during the night of February 2, 2007. Hazardous Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Monday’s focus is on lightning. Lightning is among the top weather-related killers in the United States, striking the ground about 25 million times each year and causing more injury and death than tornadoes.

The 2008 Florida Hazardous Weather Awareness Week is a perfect time to note that our state, out of all 50 states, is the lightning capital of the country. Florida is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. As a result, daytime heating often generates boundaries that move inland from our coasts during the day. When these boundaries collide, thunderstorms are the result.

As the #1 thunderstorms threat in Florida, lightning results in an average of 10 fatalities and 40 injuries each year. Unfortunately, 10 people in Florida died form lightning strikes on 2007.

Nearly half of all lightning deaths occur in open areas. Many people are struck when they go under a tree to keep dry during a storm. Outdoor water activities such as swimming, boating and fishing are equally as dangerous during lightning storms. Did you know that a lightning strike to the ground or water can travel more than 30 feet in all directions and has been known to strike as much as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm? Therefore, when thunderstorms are approaching, avoid outdoor activities as if your life depends on it – because it does!

The National Weather Service and Florida Division of Emergency Management promote the “30-30 Rule” in seeking shelter during thunderstorms. The 30-30 Rule states: “When you see lightning, count the time it takes until you hear thunder. If this time is less than 30 seconds, go immediately to a safer place. Wait 30 minutes ore more after hearing the last clap of thunder before leaving your shelter.”  This rule works best when a thunderstorm is approaching an area. Be alert to changes in sky conditions. A darkening cloud is often the first sign that lightning may strike. As soon as you see lightning or hear thunder, it is best to seek shelter in a substantial building and do not be tempted to watch lightning from open windows or doors.

For more information on lightning hazards and what you can do to protect yourself, go to www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov  and also www.floridadisaster.org/kids.