According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lightning carries one billion volts of electricity. At 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun and deadly to humans.
Florida is popularly known as the Sunshine State. Both residents and tourists spend a great deal of time outdoors. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), Florida on average has 3,500 cloud-to-ground lightning flashes per day and 1.2 million flashes per year. The combination of warm, humid sea breezes on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts makes Florida a perfect breeding ground for thunderstorms.
“When thunder roars, go indoors.” Though most lightning strikes occur from May to October, the threat exists year round in Florida. The NWS recommends stopping all of your outside activities, seek shelter and then wait at least 30 minutes until after you hear thunder for the last time to go back outside.
The City of Marco Island has installed a Thor Guard Lightning warning system at City Hall, Mackle Park and Winterberry Park. The main sensor alerting station is located on the roof of City Hall. There are two remote stations at Mackle Park (the first located at the far end of the athletic fields and second located at the far end of the lake on the walking path near the water treatment plant that can be seen from the dog park). The last remote station is at Winterberry Park on the roof of the bathrooms.
These are “prediction based” systems as opposed to lightning “detection” systems. The system predicts when there is a high probability of lightning in the two-mile radius of the main unit located at City Hall. The system is active 7 days a week from 8 AM to 9 PM.
If the system predicts a high probability of lightning within the designated radius, a one time 15-second blast of the system’s siren will sound and a “Red Alert” flashing strobe will light.
“Red Alert” = Long siren (15 seconds) and flashing strobe light. If you hear/see this siren, seek shelter immediately.
“All Clear” = Three short sirens (5 seconds each) and no strobe light.
Thor Guard Lightning Warning Systems are also located at Residents Beach, the Island Country Club and Hideaway Beach. The Beach and Coastal Resource Advisory Committee is actively seeking assistance from Collier County Parks and Recreation Department to install a Thor Guard Lightning Warning System for South Beach. There is also no warning system currently installed at Tigertail Beach, which is a County Beach. For more information on lightning safety visit: www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.
WHERE TO GO:
The safest location during a thunderstorm is inside a large enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring. These include shopping centers, schools, office buildings, and private residences. If lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity and eventually direct it into the ground.
If no substantial buildings are available, than an enclosed metal vehicle such as an automobile, van, or school bus would be a suitable alternative.
WHERE NOT TO GO:
Not all types of buildings or vehicles are safe during thunderstorms. Buildings with exposed sides are NOT safe (even if they are “grounded”). These include beach shacks, metal sheds, picnic shelters/pavilions, carports, and baseball dugouts. Porches are dangerous as well.
Convertible vehicles offer no safety from lightning, even if the top is up. Other vehicles that are NOT safe during thunderstorms include those with open cabs such as golf carts, tractors and construction equipment.