Summertime killer: Florida leads U.S. in lightning deaths for more than a decade

Here's what you need to know about lightning safety

ORLANDO, Fla. – Summer in Central Florida means afternoon thunderstorms, complete with frequent lightning.

Since 2006, Florida has led the nation in lightning fatalities. In an effort to help people nationwide learn more about the electrifying bolts and how to stay safe when dealing with them, the National Weather Service has teamed up with the National Lightning Safety Council to raise awareness.

News 6 meteorologist Samara Cokinos took a close look at lightning fatality statistics and found that in 2018, seven out of 20 fatalities happened in the Sunshine State. That's 35%, a pretty significant amount. So far this year, there have been four fatalities in the nation, one of which happened in Central Florida.

According to the data, July is the most active month due to kids being out of school and the large amount of outdoor activities that take place. The most dangerous holiday for lightning is Independence Day, since it's usually spent outdoors and in the most active month.

Here's some good news: Since 2001, the NLSC has reported a reduction in lightning deaths from 50% to 30% across the U.S., crediting the declining number to knowledge and safety awareness. 

"Previously, meteorologist Candace Campos wrote about the four ways someone can be struck by lightning," Cokinos said. "Now, it's time to talk safety."

[RELATED: 4 ways you can be struck by lightning]

There's a saying that makes safety easy to remember and fun for kids to say, too, according to Cokinos.

"When thunder roars, go indoors," Cokinos said. "It seems simple, but keep in mind -- once the storm is over, that doesn't mean go right back outside."

To be safe, meteorologists at the NWS recommend staying indoors for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Finding shelter can be a problem since many Floridians spend so much time outdoors on nature trails, in lakes or at the many beaches the Sunshine State boasts.

Here are a few tips for that very situation: 

First, get out of the water and get off the beach. If there are no buildings close by, seek shelter in a hard-topped, all-metal vehicle.

Crouching down or under a tree will not reduce your risk of being struck. Trees are not a means of shelter. They're tall and more likely to be struck. There are plenty of videos out there to support that tip.

Also, remember to put down and stay away from metal objects.

"The last thing anyone needs is a bolt producing up to a billion volts of electricity running through their body and heating things up to five times hotter than the surface of the sun," Cokinos said. "Yes, those figures are accurate."

Once indoors, if there is a corded phone, don't use it. Cellphones aren't completely safe either. Once the phone is placed on the charger, it also counts as a corded device.

Stay away from windows and doors. That video or picture of the lightning probably won't come out that great, anyway.

[MORE: Sick of seeing lightning? This place is electrified by it up to 300 days a year | Not all lightning strikes are equal: What type is most dangerous?]

Need a reason to hold off doing laundry or dishes? Lightning helps out with that one. Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths, faucets and large appliances. Wait until after the storm. 

National Lightning Safety Awareness week runs from June 23 to June 29. Each day is dedicated to a different safety aspect, including how to protect your home from lightning.

You can get more information from the NLSC's website.


About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.