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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Residents of The Villages should understand the dangers of lightning

Lightning is one of the most underrated severe weather hazards impacting people and property; it requires recognition and preparation.

The last week of June is Lightning Safety Awareness Week reminding the nation about lightning safety. Here in The Villages the lightning season began ramping up in April. We have many new residents who may not be aware of the lightning risk living here in the Lightning Capital of the Nation. It is common to experience over 100 days a year with lightning – particularly in the summer months.

The National Lightning Safety Council reports 250 fatalities due to lighting over the last decade. However, due to greater awareness, the number of fatalities hit an all-time low of 11 in 2021. Florida continues to lead the nation in fatalities as four occurred in the Sunshine State. Three of the 11 occurred on a golf course including one here in Florida.

This is the first in a series of three articles on lightning safety to help you manage your lightning risk.

Personal Lightning Safety Outdoors

Lightning can cause life changing injury or death in several ways in addition to a direct strike. Others include Contact (when touching a conductor such as a metal fence), Side Flash (when lightning bounces off an object such as a tree), Ground Current (when lightning strikes near a victim and the current passes via the ground), Streamer (when the air is charged with electricity during lightning storm’s burst of energy), and Blast (when the victim is thrown or falls and may also experience ruptured eardrums).

There was a serious injury in 2017 at The Villages Polo Club at the conclusion of a youth showcase soccer tournament. A 12-year-old boy was struck, and his life was saved by the tournament coordinator who immediately began CPR followed by EMS evacuation to the hospital. It had not rained although lightning was reported two miles to the north demonstrating the unpredictability of lightning. A few years earlier two workers were slightly injured during a concrete pour when the concrete mixing truck was struck by lightning.

The National Weather Services (NWS) and the National Lightning Safety Council (NLSC) awareness campaign’s goal is to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.

Listen to the local weather forecast (WVLG 640 AM or 102.7 FM, VNN Comcast Ch. 2) Plan ahead to know where to go for shelter (substantial building)

When Thunder Roars GO Indoors is the mantra of the National Weather Service. Wait 30 minutes after the last sighting of lightning or hearing the rumble of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
Personal Lightning Safety Indoors
While no place is entirely safe from lightning you should seek shelter in a substantial building which can be your own home. There have been cases here in The Villages of homeowners being injured when a home took a direct lightning strike while the homeowner was taking a shower. A husband and wife experienced a jolt when there was a nearby indirect lightning strike when he was on the computer, and she was on the telephone. Fortunately, there was no injury in this near miss event. Therefore, it is important to avoid anything conductive during a thunderstorm:
Plumbing fixtures (i.e., taking a shower or a bath)
Electrical equipment (appliances, computers)
Corded telephones (only for emergencies)
Windows and doors
The next article will discuss INDIRECT lightning strikes that can damage your appliances and electrical equipment followed by DIRECT lightning strikes to the home and lightning protection systems also known as lightning rods.

Villager Len Hathaway is a recognized lightning expert.

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