10 Lightning Safety Truths You Need to Know when Living or Visiting Florida

Lightning in Florida kills more people then any other weather hazard. Yes, more than hurricanes. Florida has a unique weather pattern since it is a peninsula with warm waters on 3 sides. The warm air pushes inland forming tall cumulous storm clouds and strong storms. This is why Florida is sometimes referred to as the Lightning Capital of our nation. Those afternoon storms create massive amounts of lightning strikes. And those lightning strikes have enough energy to kill you. But Lightning doesn’t kill everyone who gets struck. In fact only about 10% will die from a lightning strike. But it can cause other severe health concerns that will affect your life. So be safe. Take precautions.

Don’t Get Blasé About Lightning Dangers

Photo and main photo by IGER @surfjks

As a native of Florida, I have been told my whole life ways to be safe from lightning. And I can tell you, it is easy to get blasé about staying safe. We run through storms to get to and from our cars. And because we have lived through so many bad storms and never had an incident, we tend to forget some of the safety precautions, especially inside our homes. So here is a list of the ways to stay safe and protect yourself and your family from getting struck by lightning.

Stay Safe Inside Your Home or Building

1. Stay away from Plumbing – this includes bathing, showering, sinks, laundry, or anything connected to the water pipes.

The reason. Water conducts electricity and if the lightning strikes any outdoor connection with your water pipes, it will conduct the electricity directly to the faucet.

2. Don’t use corded devices. If you are using your cell phone or laptop, unplug it during a storm.

The reason. Any strike to your wiring system will conduct the electricity directly to your device and to anyone touching it. This happened to my home many years ago before cell phones and laptops were the norm. During the storm, we heard a loud pop that startled us, and several of our devices, the tv’s, desktop computers, and the fridge were all fried. I’m thankful no one was touching them at the time of the strike!

3. Stay away from windows and doors. 

The reason. Window and door frames contain metal and can conduct the electrical energy, same as a wired device

4. Do not seek shelter in an un-enclosed structure such as a picnic shelter, tent, carports, etc.

The reason. These structures if struck is similar to standing under a tree. The energy will travel from the object that is struck with a ground current to anyone near or under the structure.

Reduce Risks if you get caught outside

There is no safe place outside or in any open area during a storm. But you can reduce the risks.

5. Get out of the water and away from water. If you are in the pool, beach, lake or any body of water, get out at the first sign of a storm. If you hear thunder, even rumblings, lightning can strike where you are. Be sure to avoid standing in puddles and running water.

The reason. Water conducts the energy of a lightning strike.

6. Stay away from trees or any tall structure. Growing up in Florida, this is the number one lightning death I remember hearing about. People running to a tree in an open area for shelter and getting struck, very often on a golf course. Lightning can either jump from the tree directly to the person, or hit the tree and send a current through the ground to the people close to the truck.

The reason. Lightning is drawn to the easiest path to ground itself and tall structures provide that access. A wooded area with lots of trees is safer than a single tree out in the open.

You wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the tree in this great capture video.

7. Get out of open areas and get inside a hard-topped metal vehicle. And do not touch any part of the frame or metal objects. Keep your shoes on.  

The reason. The metal will dissipate the energy.

8. Do not touch anything that is metal. Put down the golf clubs, let go of your bike, and do not lean on or touch anything metal.

The reason. Metal conducts the energy and will go straight to you if you are touching it.

What to do if you are caught in a storm on a Boat

Photo by: doodle / shutterstock

9. Stay away from and do not touch the metal and electrical parts of the boat. Keep your flip flops or rubber bottom shoes on.

10. Stay low. Go into the cabin if your boat has one.

Static can alert you to a dangerous lightning strike. If you feel your hair start to get static in a storm, get in the lightning position.


Lightning Position

If you can’t do any of the above and you are stuck outside in a storm, the lightning position can save your life. Make yourself low to the ground by squatting or kneeling. Bend forward and put your hands on your knees. Never lie on the ground. The reason. There is a greater chance of death if the energy has farther to travel. So by shortening yourself, you are increasing your chance of survival.

What happens if you or someone near you gets struck by lightning?

Immediate medical attention may be needed. Check for heartbeat and breathing. Cardiac arrest can occur and the person struck may need CPR. A common misconception is that if you touch someone who was struck, you will get shocked. But that is false. People do not carry a charge and not only are they safe to touch, they may need to be touched in order to be saved. The majority of people can survive with immediate care.

About the author

Patti Jewel

Content Marketing Expert and owner of a content focused digital agency. Patti is also a life-long Florida resident, beach lover, nature lover, who is always looking for the positive things to focus on in Florida.