Lightning can be deadly — and it just was. Here’s how not to become a statistic

Lightning safety tips

Watch a NOAA video about being safe when thunderstorms and lighting approach.
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Watch a NOAA video about being safe when thunderstorms and lighting approach.

A motorcycle rider in Ormond Beach died after his helmet was struck by lightning while riding on Interstate 95 on Sunday, bringing attention to just how powerful Mother Nature can be.

Lightning, an enormous spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds or between a cloud and the ground, can kill.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being struck is thankfully rare: The odds in a given year are around 1 in 500,000.

Still, Florida is considered the “lightning capital” of the country, with more than 2,000 related injuries over the past 50 years.

The Sunshine State leads the United States in terms of annual lightning fatalities.

The months of June, July and August are considered the deadliest for Florida as more people spend time outdoors.

There were 20 lightning-related fatalities in 2018, according to the National Weather Service. Seven of those occurred in Florida.

In the beginning of last month, two giraffes were killed by lightening at Lion Country Safari.

Here is a guide on keeping safe:

How do your protect yourself from becoming a statistic?

By being smart and playing it safe.

Your best bet when you see the first flash?

Stay inside in an enclosed structure, according to the CDC. If that’s impossible, find a “substantial, non-concrete shelter” or get to your metal topped car, with the windows rolled up.

“Staying out in the open is a big no-no,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Evan Duffey.

The National Weather Service explains the four types of thunderstorms: single cell; multi-cell cluster; squall line; and supercell. Thunderstorms can produce dangerous lightning, damaging hail and winds, tornadoes and flash flooding.

What if there is no shelter?

If absolutely no shelter is available, advises the CDC, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible.

What should I avoid?

If you’re in the water, which acts as a conductor, get out.

And forget about hiding under a tree. Lightning is attracted to the tallest point of a conductor.

If the tip of a tree is struck, the current can travel down and hit the human conductor.

Avoid any and all electronic equipment. Using a land-line telephone is not prudent because it’s connected by wires to the outside.

An Apopka, Florida canine police officer escaped injury this week after a bolt of lightning struck very near the police department parking lot. The bolt knocked out the power to the building and damaged multiple electrical transformers.

Types of lightning

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, there are three main types of lightning: created inside one (thunder) cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.

The effects

Lightning, which can reach temperatures of up to 50,000 degrees, can travel through wires and produce shocks.

Phones and tires?

According to the National Weather Service, rubber tires do not protect or ground you (it’s a myth that they do). It is the vehicle’s metal roof and sides.

Cellphones are safe to use during a storm.

When to act

A good rule of thumb is the so called 30-30 rule.

When you see lightning, begin counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

For more tips on safety, go to the National Severe Storms Laboratory’s site under frequently asked questions.

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