Thunderstorms & Lightning
On average, the interior sections of central Florida receive the most thunderstorms with nearly 100 plus days per year. However, thunderstorms are also frequent along coastal areas which average 80 to 90 days per year. For more information on thunderstorms, view our Preparedness Guide (PDF).
Although Florida thunderstorms are generally less than 15 miles in diameter, they can grow vertically to great heights in excess of 10 miles high into the atmosphere. This stacking effect of concentrated moisture can explain why a Florida thunderstorm directly overhead could produce four or more inches of rain in less than an hour while a location a few miles away may see only a trace.
A thunderstorm watch means conditions are favorable for thunderstorms to produce wind gusts to 58 mph or stronger, or hail to 3/4-inch or larger in the watch area. Watches are issued four to six hours at a time and can cover several counties. Watch the sky, and take cover if a severe thunderstorm is approaching.
A thunderstorm warning means a severe thunderstorm has been detected by radar or a trained spotter. Take cover if you are in or near a severe thunderstorm area.
During a Thunderstorm
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Protect belongings from power surges, avoid using a telephone or any electrical appliances.
- Avoid touching metal. Utility lines and metal conduct electricity.
- Avoid trees and telephone poles.
- Stay away from water, water conducts electricity.
- Watch for flash flooding.
- Stay indoors and away from windows during a storm.
Is a powerful electrical discharge produced during a thunderstorm. The electric current is very hot and causes the air around it to expand very quickly, which in turn makes thunder. Sometimes it happens between clouds. Sometimes, in the rain, it goes from cloud to ground. If it goes from cloud to ground, it can strike a person.
Among Florida's weather dangers, lightning is the number-one killer. Lightning kills more people than hurricanes and tornadoes combined. Along the Gulf Coast, lightning almost always occurs in conjunction with thunderstorms. The accompanying winds kill many more who were not adequately prepared.
If you are in a small, non-motorized boat, there are some precautions you should be aware of that will help you survive a lightning storm. Most of these tragedies can be prevented. Take the time to understand the risk and protect yourself and your home so you do not become the next victim.
The 30-30 Rule
When you see lightning flash, count the number of seconds until you hear its thunder. If the thunder rolls in 30 seconds or less, the storm is already close enough to be dangerous; if you're not already in a safe place, it's past time to find one. After the storm, remain indoors for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
How to Protect Yourself from Lightning
In the event of an approaching lightning or thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately. Go inside. There is no safe place outdoors when thunderstorms are in your area. Lightning safety is simple: Know when you are in danger and where to go for safety. If you're caught outside during a lightning or thunderstorm and you are unable to reach a lightning protected building or hardtop automobile, be careful as to where you take shelter.
Indoor Safety Tips
- Stand clear of windows, doors,and electrical appliances.
- Unplug appliances well before a storm nears - never during.
- Avoid contact with pipes including sinks, baths,and faucets.
- Do not use the telephone except for emergencies - and then use cellular or cordless phones.
Outdoor Safety Tips
- Follow the 30/30 rule. If the time between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, take shelter. You are in a strike zone.
- Immediately get away from pools, lakes and other bodies of water.
- Get off the beach.
- Never use a tree as a shelter.
- Avoid standing near tall objects.
- Keep away from metal objects including bikes, golf carts, umbrellas, fencing, machinery, etc.
- Get indoors if at all possible or get in a hard-topped vehicle.
- Remain in shelter for 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning.
How to Take Precautions if on a Boat
- If a thunderstorm and lightning catches you while afloat, remember that gusty winds and lightning pose a threat to safety:
- Put on your life jacket and prepare for rough seas.
- Stay below deck if possible.
- Keep away from metal objects that are not grounded to the boats protection system.
- Don’t touch more than one grounded object at the same time (or you may become a shortcut for electrical surges passing through the protection system).