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Your Healthy Family: What to do if caught in lightning storm

Posted at 7:53 AM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 07:53:56-04

The chance of being struck by lightning is less than one in a million. But Fox 4 has reported cases of lightning hitting homes, causing brush fires, and striking people in Southwest Florida.

Lightning can be dangerous, and even deadly.

"I thought I'd have a better shot winning the lottery than this," Jason Moshier told Fox 4 a few weeks ago, after his Fort Myers home was struck by lightning. "Came back from dinner and smelled some smoke in the house, and was about to open the attic, and noticed the outside of the house was actually on fire."

A few days later, John Lampman's house in Iona was struck.

"I came out and I went 'holy smokes,'" he said.

Last week, a college student in Pensacola survived a lightning strike.

"I just woke up on the ground," Emma Eggler said.

But sadly, others don't make it. Last year, Walker Bethune, 17, was visiting Marco Island with his family and was struck by lightning while out on the beach. He died from his injuries.

This year, the National Weather Service said 14 people have died from lightning strikes in the U.S., including a mom who was at a park with her daughter in Winter Springs, near Orlando. Her ten-year-old daughter survived.

Ron Holle with the National Lightning Safety Council said when thunder roars, head indoors.

"Don't ask questions. Simply go to a large, substantial building or a fully enclosed metal topped vehicle,” Holle said.

He said homes and buildings with grounded wiring and plumbing are the most safe during a storm. Tents and places like sheds, dugouts, and picnic shelters don’t have the same level of protection.

Holle said during a storm, stay away form porches or balconies, and things that conduct electricity — like corded electrical devices.

"You don't want to be touching the water running in the sink, or in the shower or the bathtub. Those are conductors. It happens quite often that people are injured by that, but it's usually not fatal," Holle said.

He also said trees and lightning are a dangerous combination. The strike can hit a tree and conduct ground current to a victim. There can also be a side flash, where the tree is hit, and part of the current hits someone near it.

"They only last a few tenths of a second, but during that time they're incredibly strong," Holle said.

If getting inside isn’t possible, the National Weather Service says to avoid open fields, the tops of hills or ridge tops, and make sure to leave any bodies of water.