Summer is Florida’s true rainy season and the skies can be remarkably beautiful. White clouds can almost always be seen floating against a backdrop of clean blue. One can often watch the tops of the clouds boil and roll as they swell with gathering moisture, building through the heat of the day. As alluring as the clouds may be, there can be great danger hidden inside the beauty.
Florida has the dubious honor of being the lighting capitol of the United States. We have more people killed by lightning than any other state. Our death toll is twice as many as the second place holder, Texas. On average twelve people are killed and some thirty are injured by lightning per year in Florida.
Beach lovers, beware! The beach is not the place to be, if there is lightning. Just think about it. Lightning is most often attracted to the tallest point in any given area. An open expanse of beach is more or less flat. The ocean is more or less flat. That makes you the tallest thing on the beach!
Through the years, I have learned to be aware of changes in air movement. The calm of Florida summer mornings gives way to gentle afternoon breezes. But if those breezes become brisk, it’s time to check for approaching storms. Please remember that in many of our state and county beach parks, the nearest real shelter may be some distance away. Try and give yourself time to retreat to safety. Hiding under trees or beach umbrellas is not safe! And just because the thunder sounds far away does not make you safe! Lightning can strike ten miles away from its cloud.
As I walked the beach this morning, I couldn’t help but notice that a number of people were watching the skies. One tour boat had anchored at the beach and, as the tourists frolicked in the water, the captain was quietly listened to a weather radio. Everyone was more alert than usual. Not surprising, given the events of this week. Three people had been struck by lightning on Fort Myers Beach. Two were taken to the hospital, with one of the two in critical condition. The third person died.
Please, safety first with lightning!
July 22, 2014, Fort Myers Beach: