Know the dangers of lightning

This week is Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week

File photo of lightning in Clay County. Florida is the lightning capital of the United States.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- – Monday starts Severe Weather Awareness Week in Florida.

Florida is well-known for severe weather, and this is a great week to review some of the dangers of the weather and what to do with you and your family when severe weather strikes your area.

Today’s topic is the danger of lightning.

The lightning capital

It doesn’t really need to be said that lightning is dangerous.

Lightning can reach temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hotter than the surface of the sun.

Unfortunately, Florida is the lightning capital of the United States.

In 2002, 285 lightning events per square mile occurred in the state.

In fact, the lightning capital of the entire country resides just west of Disney World in Central Florida.

Lightning can occur year-round in Florida, thanks to the warm climate and instability in the atmosphere.

What makes lightning?

Lightning occurs when negative charges at the base of the cloud become attracted to positive charges located on the ground.

Lightning begins with an attraction between two different charges.

A stream of negative charges begins to push toward the ground, while positive charges become clustered toward a high point connected to the ground, like a tree or building.

When the positive and negative charges connect, lightning is created. The lightning heats the air along its path, which causes a rapid expansion. This creates thunder.

Lightning is completed with the two charges combine.

Lightning can also occur in-cloud and cloud-to-cloud when lightning moves more horizontally.

Protect yourself from lightning

With lightning being such a threat in Florida, it is important to know how to protect yourself.

During the first rumble of thunder, stop swimming or other outdoor activities immediately. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

Seek shelter inside an enclosed building. This will provide maximum protection from lightning.

Lightning safety tips

While inside, move away from windows and stay off of electronic devices that are connected to an outlet. Lightning can travel through the wiring in your home.

It is also important to not bathe or shower during a thunderstorm. Lightning can also travel through the plumbing in a residence.

Also, learn the 30-30 Rule on Lightning.

If after a thunderstorm passes, there are less than 30 seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, then lightning remains a threat.

And be sure to wait at least 30 minutes before resuming outdoor activities to be certain lightning has cleared your area.

The 30-30 Rule for lightning

Lightning is a major threat here in Florida. Be certain to understand the dangers and know what to do when lightning approaches both inside and outside.

About the Author:

David Heckard is The Weather Authority's Assistant Chief Meteorologist.