Let’s separate the facts and myths of one of Florida’s most fascinating and powerful weather conditions.
Several summers ago, Meghan Davidson was struck in the head by lightning near her home in Fort Myers. The woman, who was nine months pregnant at the time, was walking in her neighborhood in an effort to induce labor. It was a cloudy day, but there was no rain or thunder. Neighbors say the lightning bolt came out of nowhere.
Davidson survived but her son, who was delivered when she arrived at the hospital, did not.
Floridians are used to afternoon thunderstorms and are pros at preparing for hurricanes, but that familiarity can lead to a false sense of safety. There are also many myths surrounding lightning that, if believed, could put you in harm’s way.
As the rainy season continues and hurricane season begins, make sure you are aware of the dangers surrounding Florida’s thunderstorms. Below, the National Weather Service breaks down some of those myths.
A Closer Look
Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit an average of 23 times a year.
Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10 to 15 miles from the thunderstorm.
Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning; however, it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, not the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection at all from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it travels through the metal frame and into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter. Second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.
Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.