Florida Legal Topics

Edgewater Legal News - Lightning

The Law Office of Paul Bernardini

Lightning Strikes: Definitions

Stay safe! Make sure you know the facts about lightning strikes* to avoid injury:

Direct Strike: These are not as common as people think, but are potentially the most deadly. In a direct strike, a portion of the current moves along the skin (flashover), and a portion moves through the body, usually through the cardiovascular and/or nervous system.

Side Flash or Side Splash: Lightning can jump from one object to another, such as when it strikes a tree and then jumps to a person that is one or two feet away. Since it is common for people to seek shelter from rain under a tree, this is a risk.

Ground Current is when lightning strikes a tree or other object, travels along the ground, and strikes up from the ground. Anyone outside near a lightning strike is a potential victim of ground current. This is the most prevalent cause of lightning-related deaths.

Conduction: Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces. Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, water faucets and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.

Streamers: As the downward-moving lightning approaches the ground, streamers are spawned. These streamers discharge when the main channel does, causing the same injuries as a direct strike.

And by the way, lightning CAN strike twice!

*National Weather Service, Lightning Science: Five Ways Lightning Strikes People

When Lightning Strikes

Contrary to popular legend, central Florida is not the “lightning capital of the world.” That distinction belongs to Rwanda, Africa, with 2.5 times more strikes than Central Florida. In fact, the Orlando-Tampa area is 14th in a list of strike capitals.* However, even 14th in the world is still Number One in the United States, and Central Florida – from Tampa to Titusville – is nicknamed “Lightning Alley” for a good reason.

We’ve grown up with many myths about lightning. Most people believe that if you can’t see lightning, it can’t strike you. Or that you don’t have to go in until it starts raining. However, if you hear a rumble of thunder, you are close enough to be struck. Lightning can strike as far away as 10 miles, and there is still danger up to 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard.

Since approximately “25 million cloud-to-ground flashes strike the United States every year, it is impractical for the [National Weather Service] to warn of every potentially dangerous lightning event. The key to safety is individual education and responsibility.*

There are “two exceptions:  1) when adults are in charge of groups of children, and 2) situations where responsibility is assumed by organizers and operators of facilities where large crowds are expected, such as sporting or entertainment events.”*

Youth sporting events are particularly susceptible to lightning, because the non-professional adults in charge may not be aware of the dangers and prevention, and children depend on them for their safety. There should be established safety procedures for weather events. Immediate treatment is necessary, and victims do not retain the charge, as some people think.

When lightning strikes and causes injuries, they are often unseen and potentially last for a lifetime. If you or a child has been injured by lightning and have questions concerning liability, please call us at 386-258-3453. Your consultation is free. See below for more facts about lightning.

*Lightning Injuries, Mary Ann Cooper, Christopher J. Andrews, and Ronald L. Holle