What month is most active for lightning in Florida? Meteorologist explains when, why

Central Florida counties ranked hot spots for lightning activity

Rainbow seen with a bolt of lightning in an August summer storm in Clermont, Florida.
Rainbow seen with a bolt of lightning in an August summer storm in Clermont, Florida. (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Orlando – According to the National Weather Service July is the month that produces the most lightning across the state. August ranks second most active and it has everything to do with the stormy set up we see each afternoon, especially in Central Florida.

Our sunny and stormy peninsula is surrounded by warm water. Nearly every afternoon the sea breezes collide sparking numerous storms.

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The active hot spot is Central Florida due to the location of the subtropical ridge axis usually located over the northern portion of where we call home. The most active spots seen in the dark orange on the map show the northern portion of Central Florida mainly across inland areas where the sea breeze collisions occur.

This plot shows the flashes per square kilometer across the state. The most active areas are in the dark orange/ red sections which highlights central Florida provided by the NWS Melbourne office. (NWS)

According to the 2020 annual lightning report by Vaisala, Florida still leads the nation in total lightning density. Texas has the highest lightning count based on its size, but Florida still has more lightning per square mile than any other state with a whopping 194 events recorded.

While Texas leads the nation in total number of lightning events based on it's size, Florida still leads the nation with the highest density of lightning events per square mile. (Vaisala)

This includes cloud-to-ground strokes and cloud pulses. Orange and Seminole counties had the most reports with 10-12 flashes per kilometer squared in 2020.

This map highlights Orange and Seminole counties as the most active in Florida for cloud-to-ground flash density last year. (Vaisala)

Out of 170,549,822 events detected last year, Central Florida — along with other areas in the southern United States highlighted in the light blue — was noted as lightning hot spots with over 128 lightning events detected per kilometer squared.

This map shows the most active lightning spots in light blue across the United States in 2020. Last year there was over 170 million events detected. (Vaisala)

That’s why lightning safety is such a big deal, especially in our state. The Lightning Safety Council dedicates the entire last week of June to prep people across the nation for the peak of lightning season. While there’s not much anyone can do to reduce the risk of being struck while outside in a thunderstorm, the council says the only completely safe action is to get inside a building or vehicle. If that’s not an option the lightning safety council has a few tips:

  • Avoid open fields, hills or ridgetops
  • Stay away from trees or other tall objects
  • Stay away from or out of water, wet items, and metal objects that are excellent conductors of electricity
  • Spread out from groups to prevent electrical current from traveling between other group members

Keep in mind just because indoors is the safest place to be during a storm, there are still precautions to take while indoors. The Lightning Safety Council recommends the following actions:

  • Stay off corded phones (cell phones are okay)
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment and avoid plumbing
  • Stay away from windows and doors
  • Stay off porches, balconies, and open garages
  • Don’t lie on concrete floors
  • Protect pets (dog houses are not safe shelters)
  • Invest in surge protectors to reduce the risk of electronic items being damaged

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.