Fort Myers, Fla. -- Summer-time thunderstorms are a part of life in southwest Florida. In fact, the Sunshine State leads the country in lightning strikes, and in turn lightning-related deaths. Just last month, a Lake Placid man was struck and killed while fishing on Lake Okeechobee.
Packing a punch of 125 million volts with a temperature hotter than the sun, more than 1.4 million lightning bolts strike Florida in an average year, most occurring in central and southwest Florida.
"Unfortunately that also means that we lead the country with lightning deaths and injuries," explains National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Robert Molleda
Lightning kills more Floridians than any other weather phenomenon, including hurricanes! Virtually all lightning deaths happen outdoors and can be prevented. As the saying goes "When Thunder roars, go indoors!"
"So it doesn't matter how far away the storm is that produced that thunder. If you hear thunder you are really at risk for being hit by lightning," says Molleda.
If you are outside, seek cover immediately in a building that has four walls, not a park shelter or baseball dugout...And stay away from all bodies of water and metal objects; this includes boats...And if a four-walled structure isn't nearby, a car is your next safest option.
"Even inside a home, you have to be mindful of where you are. As long as you stay away from windows and bathtub and electrical appliances, you should be fine," urges Molleda.
Because lightning can travel 10 miles or farther from the storm, the National Weather Service suggests waiting 30 minutes from the last clap of thunder before returning to outdoor activities.