Every Floridian knows the saying, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” Since thunderstorms in Florida are as common as the sunrise and sunset, it’s easy for many Sunshine State residents to ignore the rumbling in the sky and continue their everyday activities.
But disregarding Mother Nature can be dangerous, and even deadly. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, according to the National Weather Service and Florida tops the national list for lightning deaths with 468 deaths between 1959 and 2013, according to an article published in the Orlando Sentinel. Texas is second on the list with 216 deaths.
So what is a thunderstorm? Read on for thunderstorm facts and dangers.
Thunderstorms are considered severe if they produce wind gusts of 58 or more miles per hours and large amounts of hail, rain, and lightning. The wind gusts can knock down trees or unstable structures. Hail can damage roofs, cars, and anyone outside who’s in harm’s way. Lightning and rain can cause even more damage from fires to flash flooding. Knowing that a storm is coming can give you a heads up to help secure your surroundings and make sure your family is prepared. Many weather stations offer cell phone apps or text alerts that will let you know when a storm is on its way and when a thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect.
What is a Severe Thunderstorm Watch?
A severe thunderstorm watch means that thunderstorms are possible near your area. You should be mindful of weather conditions as they could change rapidly.
What is a Severe Thunderstorm Warning?
A severe thunderstorm warning means severe weather was reported in your area. This warning indicates dangerous conditions. You should quickly move indoors to a safe area away from windows. If you are on the road, you should find a safe indoor place to wait out the storm.
How to Calculate the Distance of a Thunderstorm?
The time between seeing a lightning flash and hearing the thunder it produces is a rough guide to how far away the lightning was when you heard it. Normally, you can hear thunder up to 10 miles from the lightning that makes it. Lightning heats the air around it to as much as 60,000 degrees, producing sound waves by the quick expansion of the heated air. Since light travels at 186,000 miles per second, you see the lightning the instant it flashes. But sound travels about a mile in five seconds (near the ground). If 15 seconds elapse between seeing a lightning bolt and hearing its thunder, the lightning was about three miles away when you heard it. If you calculate that lightning is closer than three miles away from you, go indoors. Successive lightning strikes are often two to three miles apart.
Florida has the dubious honor of being the lightning capital of the United States. Thunderstorms may be part of the price we pay to live in paradise, but that doesn’t mean we should take them for granted. Take precautions and be aware of the weather, especially during our rainy summer months.