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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

Fire at home in The Villages serves as reminder of danger of lightning

Editor’s note: This is first of a three-part series by Villager Len Hathaway, a recognized lightning expert, as we observe Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

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

The week of June 23-29, 2024, is the annual Lightning Safety Awareness Week to remind all citizens about lightning safety.  Here in The Villages the lightning season began ramping up in March. A home was heavily damaged in the Village of Osceola Hills, the earliest we have experienced such an event in the last two decades. On Saturday, a home was also damaged in the Village of Charlotte. We are also aware of strikes  resulting in a near miss with minor damage but fortunately there was no ensuing fire. Other Villages have experienced lightning surges damaging appliances and electronics.  We have many new residents who may not be aware of the lightning risk living here in The Lightning Capital of the US where it is common to experience over 100 days a year with lightning – particularly in the summer months.

Florida leads the nation in lightning deaths. The 17-year period between 2006 and 2023, there were 88 deaths in Florida twice as many as Texas with 39 deaths.

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

Personal Lightning Safety Outdoors

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.  Lightning is unpredictable because it had not rained although lightning was reported two miles to the north. A few years earlier two construction workers were slightly injured during a concrete pour when the concrete mixing truck was struck by lightning.

The National Weather Services (NWS) awareness campaign is to avoid being caught in a dangerous lightning 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)
  • Take action early
  • When Thunder Roars GO Indoors (mantra of NWS)
  • Wait 30 minutes after the last sighting of lightning or hearing the rumble of thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
  • Consider downloading a lightning app for your phone. (i.e., My Lightning Tracker, Weather Bug for free, or Weather Call Lightning for a fee)

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 a 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 were no injuries in this near miss event. Therefore, it is important to avoid the following during a thunderstorm:

  • Plumbing fixtures (i.e. taking a shower or a bath)
  • Electrical equipment
  • Corded telephones (only for emergencies)
  • Windows.

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.

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