3 Lightning Safety Tips Most Tampa Bay Residents Don’t Know
Posted By Darrigo & Diaz
Tampa is the lightning capitol of the world. Learning these three lesser-known tips could help keep you safe as summer storms roll-in.
The Tampa Bay peninsula receives more lightning strikes than anywhere in the United States, which has earned Tampa the reputation of “The Lightning Capital of the World.”
In fact, the word Tampa is believed to mean “sticks of fire” in the language of the Calusa, a Native American tribe that once lived in the the area. This is due to the high concentration of lightning strikes that west central Florida receives every year during the summer months.
With hot and humid temperatures, August is the most active month for lightning in Tampa Bay. On average, there are more than 3,500 lightning flashes per day.
While most Tampa Bay residents know to seek shelter when lightning is in the area, a survey reveals that many people don’t know what to do if trapped outside during a storm. Whether you’re at the beach, on a boat, playing golf, or simply somewhere without shelter, follow these three lightning safety tips to help keep you safe.
1. If must cross sand to get to shelter, crawl on all fours.
Lightning is attracted to the highest objects in the area. Since shorelines in Tampa Bay are often bare (i.e. no trees, telephone poles, etc.), this makes traveling across sand particularly dangerous during a lightning storm. Experts recommend crawling quickly on all fours until you reach a safer location. This will help reduce your risk of being struck.
2. Distance yourself from others and get in the “lightning position”
When shielding yourself from lightning, the goal is to be as small as possible. Therefore, you should never huddle together with others in a group. The CDC recommends putting a minimum of 20 feet between you and another person and getting into the lightning position.
To get into “lightning position,” stop, squat (or sit) and ball yourself up so you are as low as possible. Wrap your arms around your legs or put your hand over your ears to protect your ears from thunder. Close your eyes and keep your feet together at the heels.
The purpose of the lightning position is to minimize your contact with the ground. If lightning strikes nearby, it can become a ground current and electrocute nearby objects. Therefore, try to stay on the balls of your feet as long as possible if crouching.
SPECIFICALLY FOR BOATERS
3. If you’re caught in a storm while on the water, follow these steps to minimize your chance of being struck or seriously injured if there is a strike.
- If possible, find a protected area out of the wind and drop anchor.
- If the boat has an enclosed console or cabin, go inside and stay away from metal objects, electrical outlets and appliances (it’s a good idea to put life jackets on too).
- Lower fishing rods, antennas and outriggers, unless they’re intended as a lightning-protection system.
- Never use the VHF radio during a lightning storm unless it’s an emergency.
- Do not grab two metal objects, like a metal steering wheel and metal railing. This can be a deadly spot to be if there’s a strike.
- If you’re in an open boat, since you are the tallest point, the best thing you can do is drop anchor, remove all metal jewelry, put on life jackets, and get low in the center of the boat.
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