Crazy summer weather pattern lights up South Florida skies

An unusual summer weather pattern cracked open South Florida’s sky Sunday, spearing Palm Beach County with more than 2,500 lighting strikes in two hours and detonating storms along pools of rain-cooled air.

Fed from above by sub-freezing temperatures whipped into the state by a plunging jet stream, and gorging on sticky daytime highs that peaked at 94 degrees in West Palm Beach, the rapid-fire storms temporarily cut electricity to as many as 12,000 homes.

VIDEO: Lightning scares the bejesus out of Florida officer

“It was like a tropical storm was hitting, it was huge,” said Theo Hayes, who lives near the Intracoastal in West Palm Beach. “The rain got to the point where I couldn’t see Palm Beach Island. It was weird, but that’s Florida weather.”

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Miami said the pattern that emboldened Sunday’s storms will be in place again Tuesday with an upper-level area of low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico sending in westerly winds to battle afternoon sea breezes.

RELATED: Florida lightning deaths hit alarming number with stormy months ahead

Storms similar to Sunday’s focused their ire south on Monday, hitting mostly in Miami-Dade County. But a 70 percent chance of showers is in Tuesday’s forecast for West Palm Beach, with another round of widespread thunderstorms possible, according to meteorologists at the South Florida Water Management District.

“I sat there with a glass of beer in one hand and …. READ the rest of the story at MYPALMBEACHPOST.COM and find out how long this weather pattern will last. 

A lightning bolt over downtown West Palm Beach, Aug. 31, 2007 (Jennifer Podis, Palm Beach Post)

VIDEO: Lightning scares the bejesus out of Florida officer

An Apopka policeman got the quite the scare Tuesday when a lightning strike hit too close to home and had him scurrying into his police car.

He did the right thing. A car with a metal roof is an appropriate place to take shelter if you can’t reach a building.

But the video captured by an Apopka Police Department camera shows the shock – no pun intended – the officer had when lightning hit nearby, knocking out electricity and lighting up the back of the parking lot like the Fourth of July.

The department notes on its Facebook page that the officer was unharmed in the incident.

 

A lightning strike near the Apopka Police Department took an officer by surprise in this screen grab from a surveillance camera.

Florida lightning death occurs 10 years to day after similar strike on same island

Lightning strikes south of Belvedere Road near I-95 in West Palm Beach on July 9, 2009. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

A lightning strike that is believed to have killed a man on Siesta Key on Sunday occurred 10 years to the day after a similar strike on the barrier island took down a fisherman, who ultimately survived his injury.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said this morning that 33-year-old James W. Barton died Sunday after an emergency call came in at about 2:15 p.m. that a person was struck by lightning on the beach.

An initial death investigation said beach lifeguards and first-responders tried to help Barton, who was from Seffner, Fla., but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

RELATED: Lightning kills randomly, know myth from fact

Ten years earlier on June 24, fisherman Eric Troyer, then 28, was fishing near Midnight Pass beach when a jogger saw him struck by lightning. According to a 2008 article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the jogger pulled Troyer from the water and gave him CPR. Doctors lowered Troyer’s body temperature hoping to prevent brain damage. According to the article, Troyer was expected to make a full recovery.

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the National Weather Service, said Barton’s death was the fourth in Florida this year, including a Lake Worth woman, and a landscaper struck in Margate who died after a June 11 lightning strike.

On average, about 5 people are killed each year in Florida in lightning-related incidents, Jensenius said.

Related: Summer lightning and golf in South Florida

“With four deaths in Florida already, certainly the death toll is above average given where we are in the season,” Jensenius said. “When you are at four and the average is 4.7, that’s pretty high for this point in the year.”

Jensenius said July averages the highest number of lightning-related deaths each year nationwide.

Jensenius said one challenge to educating people about lightning is the enduring myth that holding something metal attracts lightning.

“It has nothing to do with what you are holding, it has simply to do with the fact that you are outside,” Jensenius said. “There is simply no place outside that is safe in a thunderstorm.”

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One dead in South Florida lightning strike

The Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department has confirmed that a woman is dead and man injured after a lightning strike just before 2 p.m. today.

Mike Moser, division chief and public information officer for the department, said he didn’t have identities or ages of victims.

“When we arrived, we declared one deceased at the scene and another was transported to Broward Health North in critical condition,” Moser.

Related: Know the facts about lightning safety

The strike occurred at C.W. Hendrix Farms in Parkland. The farm is west of U.S. 441 and south of Loxahatchee Road.

Moser said he didn’t know if the victims were workers or visitors to the farm, which grows produce.

“We believe you can go there as a consumer and walk out into the field, but we don’t know,” Moser said.

The farm is surrounded by open fields, which could make anyone working in the area a target for lightning. Lighting tends to hit the tallest object nearby.

C.W. Hendrix Farms. Photo by Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Ryan DiPentima,

The woman killed today is the second lightning-related death in Florida this year.

The first death happened in April when lightning slammed into a tree at the Woodpecker Mud Bog north of Lake City, killing 23-year-old Kourtney Lambert.

Five people were killed in Florida in lightning-related incidents in 2017.

The National Weather Service office in Miami began tracking a strong thunderstorm at 1:55 p.m. over Parkland and near Coral Springs. It issued weather advisories for the area at 1:56 p.m. and 2:27 p.m.

This week’s storms, fueled by afternoon sea breezes and given a shot of power from a low pressure area in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, have been heavy with lightning.

Related: Sunny skies don’t mean you’re safe from lightning. 

Lightning forms when strong updrafts in towering cumulonimbus clouds force molecules to collide, creating an electric charge. Lightning rapidly heats a narrow channel of air to temperatures as high as 54,000 degrees, which prompts the emission of light and a crack of thunder as super-heated air expands rapidly, producing shockwaves.

Lightning deaths reached an all time low in the U.S. in 2017 with just 16 people killed, according to a National Weather Service report.

Still, Florida typically leads the nation

Florida Division of Corporations filings indicate the farm is owned by Charles W. Hendrix.

Lightning strikes south of Belvedere Road near I-95 in West Palm Beach on July 9, 2009. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida leads nation in lightning deaths after Monday strike kills camper

A man was killed by lightning Monday at a campground in Florida’s Panhandle.

Jeremy Harper, 35, was standing under a tree outside his tent during a thunderstorm. Officials believe the tree was struck by lightning and knocked him to the ground, according to the Navarre Newspaper. 

Harper lived in Kentucky, but was camping with family in Okaloosa County.

His death is the fifth this year attributed to lightning and the third in Florida.

Florida traditionally leads the nation in lightning deaths.

Since 2007, there have been 51 people killed in the state by lightning. That’s more than double the second leading state of Texas, which totaled 21 deaths. 

Based on the past 10 years, there is an average of 14 fatalities through July 10.

Related: Top 5 myths of lightning strikes and how to protect yourself 

“The safety for thunderstorms is pretty darn simple — don’t be outside,” said Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist with AccuWeather. “If you hear thunder, then you can be struck by lightning.”

Related: Two people found dead in cemetery likely killed by lightning

Lightning forms when strong updrafts in towering cumulonimbus clouds force molecules to collide, creating an electric charge.

Lightning rapidly heats a narrow channel of air to temperatures as high as 54,000 degrees, which prompts the emission of light and a crack of thunder as super-heated air expands rapidly, producing shockwaves.

Related: Amazing video of lightning strike on Florida beach 

Although a popular belief is that golfers are the most likely to be struck by lightning, it’s not true.

Between 2006 and 2016, fishermen accounted for more than three times as many fatalities as golfers, while beach activities and camping each accounted for at least twice as many deaths as golf, according to a National Weather Service report released in March.

VIDEO: Florida lifeguard jolted by lightning strike

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is reporting a swim instructor and lifeguard was jolted by a lightning strike that hit a nearby concrete pole Monday morning.

According to sheriff spokesman Mike Jachles, the 27-year-old woman was about 300 feet from the pole when the lightning struck. She was taken to Florida Medical Center where she was treated and released.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The woman was walking from her car to the Lauderdale Lakes Swimming Pool Complex when the lightning struck.

The lightning tore a chunk of concrete from the pole, which is near the Lauderdale Lakes Swimming Pool Complex.

The National Weather Service in Miami is getting more information about the strike, said warning coordination meteorologist Robert Molleda.

But meteorologists were warning of storms producing lightning this morning in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

Lightning strikes south of Belvedere Road near I-95 in West Palm Beach on July 9, 2009. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Breaking: First lightning death of the year also kills horse

A 37-year-old woman was killed by lightning Sunday – the first lightning-related death of the year nationwide, according to the National Weather Service.

The woman was horseback riding in Douglas County, Colo. with two other people, when severe weather rolled in on either side of them, Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Blanchard told Fox 31 Denver. 

Related: Florida’s summer thunderstorms are unique, deadly

The lightning strike also killed the woman’s horse and injured a 15-year-old who was riding with the woman. A third woman was not hurt.

Source: National Weather Service

Between 2006 and 2015, Florida had the highest number of lightning fatalities.

Last year, Florida had nine lightning deaths, more than double the next highest, which was four in Louisiana.

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the NWS, said this is the third time in the past decade that the first lightning death occurred after May 1.

It’s happened later than May 1 in 2011 and 2014 when the first lightning death didn’t occur until May 23 and May 9.

Related: Incredible video of lightning strike on Florida beach underscores beauty, danger.

Lightning over West Palm Beach. Photo by Post Photo Editor Greg Lovett

Florida is the thunderstorm capital of the U.S., according to the Florida Climate Center. In a slice of the state that includes Palm Beach County, an average of 80 days per year include thunderstorm activity.

Related: Lightning kills randomly, know myth from fact. 

It’s important to know myth from fact when it comes to lightning strikes, such as lightning is not attracted to metal.

• A car with a metal roof is good shelter from lightning, but not because of the rubber tires. If lightning strikes the car, it will be conducted by the metal around and into the ground. A convertible does not offer the same protection.

• Lightning can strike from 10 miles away, meaning sunny skies when a storm is imminent are still dangerous.

• Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area, so trees are not safe places to seek shelter.

• A person injured by lightning is not electrified. Victims typically die of cardiac arrest. People who can administer CPR will not be electrocuted if they do so.

Amazing video of lightning strike on Florida beach underscores danger, beauty

Florida had the most people killed by lightning of any state last year, with nine of the 38 deaths nationally occurring in the Sunshine State.

Two of the Florida deaths happened when people were on beaches, which are particularly vulnerable areas during thunderstorms.

This slow motion video of a 2015 lightning strike in Daytona Beach is a vivid reminder of the danger.

Related: Top 5 lightning strike myths

Lightning looks for the tallest thing in an area, but is not attracted to metal or water – persistent myths.

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the National Weather Service explains the video here:

The initial flash (out at sea) is a negative flash and is comprised of a stepped leader-return stroke-dart leader-return stoke combination. 

Of course, all you see are the two return strokes.

The second flash (which is probably a positive flash, but could be negative) contains continuing current.  Unlike return strokes which drain the lightning channel of excess charge immediately, continuous current occurs when there is a continuous flow of electrical charge either from the cloud to the ground (negative flash) or from the ground to the cloud (positive flash). 

Video: Lightning and golf, know myth from fact

Flashes which contain continuing current tend to pulsate as differing amounts of charge move through the channel.  Because the charge flow occurs over a much longer time period, the channel will be hotter and is more likely to cause a fire.  There can also be hybrid flashes which can, for example, be a stepped leader-return stroke-dart leader-continuing current combination.

In these images, the camera’s lens and sensors are overwhelmed by the amount of light making the lightning channel appear much, much wider than it actually is  (about an inch wide).

Image taken from 2015 YouTube video purportedly recorded by Clint Bevins shows lightning strike on Daytona Beach.
Image taken from 2015 YouTube video purportedly recorded by Clint Bevins shows lightning strike on Daytona Beach.

Some safety tips include:

  • A car with a metal roof is good shelter from lightning, but not because of the rubber tires. If lightning strikes the car, it will be conducted by the metal around and into the ground. A convertible does not offer the same protection.
  • Lightning can strike from 10 miles away, meaning sunny skies when a storm is imminent are still dangerous.
  • Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area, so trees are not safe places to seek shelter.
  • A person injured by lightning is not electrified. Victims typically die of cardiac arrest. People who can administer CPR will not be electrocuted if they do so.

Related: Two people found dead in cemetery likely killed by lightning

“The safety for thunderstorms is pretty darn simple — don’t be outside,” said Ken Clark, an expert meteorologist with AccuWeather. “If you hear thunder, then you can be struck by lightning.”

Lightning forms when strong updrafts in towering cumulonimbus clouds force molecules to collide, creating an electric charge. Lightning rapidly heats a narrow channel of air to temperatures as high as 54,000 degrees, which prompts the emission of light and a crack of thunder as super-heated air expands rapidly, producing shockwaves.

Lightning deaths highest in seven years

The National Weather Service is reporting that nationwide lightning-related deaths are the highest they’ve been since 2009 following the death of a hiker on Tuesday.

A 71-year-old Texas man was struck and killed Tuesday afternoon while hiking on a trail in Manistee County, Mich., according to John Jensenius, a meteorologist and lightning expert with the National Weather Service.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The man’s death brings the total of lightning strike-related deaths to 34, the most since 2009 when 34 people died total for the year. Based on the past 10 years, the average number of deaths through Sept. 6 is 28.

Seven Floridians, including two Palm Beach County residents, were killed this year. That’s the highest of any state nationwide. Louisiana and New York are tied with four deaths each.

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m-f-lightning-deaths-2006-2016

 

Two bodies found in cemetery hours after lightning strike

The National Weather Service is reporting that two people found dead in a cemetery in Batavia, N.Y. on Wednesday were likely killed by a lightning strike.

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the NWS, said the nationwide death toll from lighting strikes now stands at 25, one more than average for this time of year.

According to a police report, Batavia police were called to the Batavia Cemetery at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after someone found two bodies. Batavia is a town southwest of Rochester, N.Y.

The police, working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, determined that the two people were struck by lightning during a storm that occurred early that morning.

Both people had injuries consistent with being struck by lightning and the Erie County Medical Examiner determined the cause of death as a lightning strike.

M-F Lightning Deaths 2006-2016