ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Days after a Florida woman was killed by a lightning strike as thunderstorms rolled through Hamilton County, News4Jax on Tuesday looked into what safety measures are in place at Northeast Florida parks to protect people.
With people being especially vulnerable to lightning when they're outside in an open field, such as a park or playground, some counties have an alarm that triggers when lightning is detected.
St. Johns and Nassau counties both have lightning warning systems since outdoor activities, including youth athletics, can quickly turn dangerous because of Florida's frequent thunderstorms.
Three years ago, a Texas boy died when lightning struck him on the soccer field where he was playing.
St. Johns County has been proactive about the severe weather issue and has installed lightning warning alarms in county parks with athletic associations.
The Thor Guard lightning alarm warns players and parents to seek shelter after lightning strikes.
"If you're playing, it's safer, so then you can get off (the field)," said a 15-year-old lacrosse player named CeCe.
Over the last 10 years, St. Johns County Parks and Recreation installed the lightning-detection alarms.
"We installed the systems just for public safety for children on the fields, for recreational use," said Sydney Lindblad, who works for the county. "We have a lot of athletic associations on our fields, so just to give the warning when there is bad weather in the area."
One unit covers 25 square miles and measures electromagnetic disruptions in the atmosphere. So if lightning strikes within 10 miles of a field where the system is installed, the alarm will sound, letting people know to take cover.
If the fields remain safe for 30 minutes, the alarm sounds again, three times, to let everyone know the fields are back open.
St. Johns County installed the Thor Guard system at:
- Mills Field
- Davis Park
- Plantation Park
- St. Augustine Little League
- Veterans Park
- Treaty Park
- Gamble Rogers Park
- Durbin Park
- Rivertown Park
- Aberdeen Park
- St. Johns Golf Club
Lindblad said the warnings go off frequently due to the Florida thunderstorms. She said they have saved lives over the last decade.
According to the city of Jacksonville, six public parks have lighting warning systems:
- Chuck Rogers Park
- Drew Park
- Earl Johnson Park
- Ed Austin Regional Park
- Patton Park
- Losco Regional Park
Nassau County has similar lightning warning systems, but its systems also predict lightning before it strikes. They’re installed at the following locations:
- Bryceville Park
- Callahan Ball Park
- Hilliard Ball Park
- Yulee Ball Park
- Peter’s Point Beach
- American Beach
- Scott Road Crossover
- Burney Park
Clay County officials could not be reached when News4Jax contacted them to see whether they used similar technology.