Spring is right around the corner, and it won’t be long until we will hear the sound of thunder nearly every day. It’s the time of year when Floridians are eager to spend more time in the sun and enjoy the numerous attractions that make this state famous. It’s also the time of year when our typically calm winter pattern turns unsettled and hazardous. This week is designated by our State’s Division of Emergency Management to educate Floridians on the various hazards that frequently impact the state and how families or businesses can prepare for these natural events. WRUF Weather will also use it as a week to prepare for an outbreak of severe weather that could impact our operations at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication and the lives of our audience. We will focus on a different potential hazard each day and share how you can avoid the danger altogether or take steps to mitigate its impact on your life or property.
More people are killed by lightning in Florida than any other state. Within the last 50 years, there have been over 450 lightning related fatalities in The Sunshine State, with the closest runner up being Texas, barely breaking the 200 mark.
Very few people can ride out an entire Florida Summer without getting caught in at least one thunderstorm. Most of us actually become so accustomed to the sound of thunder and frequent flashes of lightning that we begin to overlook the lethal dangers they present.
Lightning strikes the United States approximately 25 million times a year. While it may be true your odds at getting struck are less than winning the lottery, you can lower your chances even more by playing it safe when a storm hits. There is NO gauranteed safe place outdoors during a thunderstorm. Always consider moving inside at the first sound of thunder. Also, remember to stay away from windows and off land-line phones.
An open area is the LAST place you want to be in a thunderstorm. But in the event you are caught unexpectedly, from a personal experience here’s how you know you’re in danger. Your hair will stand straight on end, not only on your arms and neck, but also on your head, and this is also accompanied by a tingling sensation. When this occurs, you’ve become a positively charged streamer and need to either run quickly to shelter, or crouch down on the balls of your feet, making as little contact with the ground as possible.
Of all the weather hazards we track at WRUF, lightning is THE MOST unpredictable phenomenon. Staying informed and aware of the risks are crucial to staying out of harm’s way. Before you head out on a stormy day, check Gator Doppler on WRUF-TV or online for LIVE lightning tracking.
The average speed inside a rip current is 1 to 2 feet per second, which is faster than it may sound. Speeds of up to 8 feet per second have been recorded, which is faster than Olympic Gold Medalist and former UF Swimmer Ryan Lochte can swim!
Rip currents are most threatening when the tide is high and seas are rough. Always look for the red flag warning once getting to the beach, as this indicates high surf and potentially strong currents.
It’s important to remember that rip currents don’t pull you under; they drag you away from shore. Rip currents move swiftly out to sea, so to escape a rip current, stay calm and swim parallel to the shoreline.