Five people struck by lightning in Florida with more thunderstorms possible this week

One person was killed and four injured in North Florida after a lightning strike on Saturday during a mud-bogging event.

The National Weather Service said the strike, which killed 23-year-old Branford resident Kourtney Lambert, occurred at about 2:50 p.m. near White Springs, northeast of Lake City.

It’s the first lightning-related death in Florida this  year, and the second nationwide. A 22-year-old Texas man died Feb. 6 as he was repairing fencing.

Related: Lightning kills randomly, know myth from fact.

Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrel Reid said Lambert and the people injured Saturday, were under the goose neck of a camper trailer trying to stay out of a sudden rain shower when lightning struck a tree about 25 feet away.

“As commonly happens, it traveled down the tree and went through the ground and struck these people,” Reid said.

One of the people complained of numbness and tingling in her arm, Reid said, but the others were not seriously hurt.

The mud-bogging event Saturday was called the Woodpecker Mud Bog, and is an activity that happens every three to four months, Reid said.

Two sheriff’s officers were within 50 yards of the strike, with medical help also nearby.

“They gave her CPR, and she was taken to a hospital in Lake City, but she never was revived,” Reid said about Lambert.

Truths and myths about summer lightning in Florida and golf.

The strike Saturday happened as strong thunderstorms hit North Florida with wind gusts up to 55 mph.

More thunderstorms are possible this week as a front pushes through South Florida late Tuesday into early Wednesday. No severe storm threats are expected, but lightning, gusty winds and heavy rains are possible.

The location of the front as of 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Ahead of the front, temperatures will soar into the high 80s with today reaching a forecast 88 degrees in West Palm Beach, and tomorrow hitting 87.

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The normal temperature for this time of year is 81 degrees.

Overnight temperatures typically dip to 65 in April, but will remain a balmy 71 tonight and dip to 69 Wednesday morning.

Florida regularly tops the nation in lightning-related deaths.

In 2017, five of 16 lightning deaths occurred in Florida. The second highest state was Alabama with three.

Between 2007 and 2016, Florida had 51 lightning deaths. Texas had the second highest at 21.

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Why it’s so crucial to burn Lake Okeechobee

The fire burned in a mosaic on Lake Okeechobee on Wednesday, meandering around damp areas to find the dried grasses and fuel-rich mats of dead vegetation exposed when the freshwater receded this dry season.

An ambitious 5,000-acre scar was the day’s goal — a prescribed effort to thwart an arsonist’s disorderly flare ups and encourage an explosion of new flora and fauna on the reborn Earth below.

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The Florida Forest Service uses a helicopter to drop slow burning devices to start a 5,000-acre controlled burn Wednesday hoping to reduce the amount of available fuel in the marsh on the west side of Lake Okeechobee. An arsonist has been lighting fires on the dried up rim of Lake Okeechobee, forcing fire fighters to contain the blazes before they spread to parched lands beyond. Burning off marsh grass also increases sandy bottom areas for spawning and wading bird feeding and improves the overall health of the lake. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

As a helicopter arced over Glades County, dropping slow-burning bombs the size of golf balls into the landscape below, flames danced over greenery in the foreground with a sound like water falling, and blue sky turned charcoal black.

“There is a beauty in it,” said Melissa Yunas, a wildfire mitigation specialist with the Florida Forest Service. “The secret of the forest is as soon as the burn goes through, the shoots of green come up and the animals return.”

It’s no easy endeavor, and one that depends on the perfect assembly of atmospheric conditions and human resources.

Crews are pulled from the Florida Forest Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers to prepare and man the operation by helicopter, air boat and truck.

By Wednesday morning, time was running short….find out why it’s so important to conduct prescribed burns on Lake Okeechobee and what the hunters and fishermen think in the paid story on MyPalmBeachPost.com. 

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The Florida Forest Service used a helicopter to drop slow burning devices to start a 5,000-acre controlled burn Wednesday hoping to reduce the amount of available fuel in the marsh on the west side of Lake Okeechobee. An arsonist has been lighting fires on the dried up rim of Lake Okeechobee, forcing fire fighters to contain the blazes before they spread to parched lands beyond. Burning off marsh grass also increases sandy bottom areas for spawning and wading bird feeding and improves the overall health of the lake. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

WATCH LIVE: SpaceX launches today with equipment to study sprites, blue jets and elves

An innovative climate observatory that will peer into the ethereal realm above Earth’s bristling thunderstorms launches today from Cape Canaveral aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

The Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitor, or ASIM, has been in the works since 2010 and will perch on the International Space Station to study those elusive “sprites”, “blue jets” and “elves” – all electrical light shows that occur in the stratosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere.

RELATED: Satellite to revolutionize weather forecasts.

Earth’s atmospheric layers. NASA

The launch is scheduled for 4:30 today, with the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron giving the launch an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions. Concerns that could delay the launch are obstructions by cumulus clouds and a small chance of rain.

The launch can be watched live on NASA-TV, with a broadcast that begins at 4 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

SpaceX will have its own live webcast here. 

ASIM is part of a larger mission to resupply the space station,  and deliver investigations that include a study to better understand how the lack of gravity affects a metal manufacturing.

Also, continuing research on growing food in space will be aboard the Dragon CRS-14. The Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System tests a new way to give plants the boosts they need to thrive in space.

“We have 280 different experiments on board and this will help the progress of  more than 50 of them,” said Pete Hasbrook, associate program scientist for the International Space Station program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

RELATED: New weather satellite to improve severe and seven-day forecasts.

This is the 14th SpaceX commercial resupply mission to the ISS for NASA. The Dragon will carry 5,800 pounds of cargo.

The sprites, blue jets and elves that will be studied are more technically known as transient luminous events.

“The things we are looking for are newly discovered, perhaps we’ve known about them for 15 to 20 years,” said Torsten Neubert, principal investigator for ASIM. “They have been observed for a while from mountaintops and a few satellites, so we know about the physics, but we don’t know how they are generated.”

It’s believed the upward shots of light will happen more slowly than the lightning that bangs to Earth.

“On Earth, the lighting is happening so fast it’s gone before you are able to measure it, so what’s happening inside lightning, we don’t really know,” Neubert said.

Terrestrial gamma ray flashes will also be studied by ASIM. The flashes are high-energy discharges in the Earth’s atmosphere, but the origin of events is unclear.

Sprite captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Aug. 10, 2015.

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Near record heat, possible severe storms, then big cool down

Near record heat will hit South Florida this week with the potential for severe weather before a cool down dumps daytime temperatures into the low 70s by the end of the week.

A low pressure system that is forecast to bring snow to the mid-Atlantic this week will also trail a stormy cold front that could bring severe thunderstorms into Florida, including Palm beach County.

Tuesday’s forecast from the Storm Prediction Center includes a marginal risk of severe weather for the northern half of Palm Beach County, escalating to a slight risk near Melbourne and an enhanced risk from about Orlando through North Florida.

Tuesday, March 19 , 2018 forecast for severe weather from the Storm Prediction Center

But Tuesday is also expected to bring near record heat ahead of the front to South Florida where it could reach 88 degrees in West Palm Beach – four degrees short of the 1965 record for March 20 of 92 degrees.

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The storminess is expected late Tuesday into early Wednesday.

“It will bear watching as this event could produce strong winds and tornadic activity over portions of the state on Tuesday evening, Tuesday night, and early Wednesday morning,” wrote National Weather Service forecasters in Miami.

Tuesday potential impacts for severe weather.

But as the front leaves the state Wednesday, another push of cool and dry air will move into South Florida, leaving Palm Beach County with clear skies and below normal temperatures toward the end of the week.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

Highs on Thursday and Friday will only reach into the low 70s near the coast with overnight temperatures in the low 50s. Inland areas could see lows dip into the 40s overnight.

That’s significantly different than what’s normal for this time of year when daytime highs are typically 79 degrees and overnight lows are 63 degrees.

 It seems in line, however, with the roller coaster of temperature changes South Florida has experienced this month with the train of powerful winter storms rolling through the northeast.

Weather.com is calling a nor’easter “likely” beginning Tuesday. It is the fourth to hit this month with more snow, rain and possible coastal flooding for areas from Virginia to Maine.

“It will not feel like the first days of spring to those in the mid-Atlantic and New England, where a snow event is expected to unfold spanning Tuesday through Wednesday,” wrote AccuWeather meteorologist Faith Eherts.

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JUST IN: Palm Beach County at “very high” risk of wildfire

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag fire warning for much of South Florida today with the forest service ranking Palm Beach County at a “very high” risk of wildfires.

Low humidity, little rain and gusty winds contribute to the red flag warning, which is in effect through 7 p.m. It’s the first time since May a red flag warning has been issued in Palm Beach County, and only the eighth time since 2015.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

Scott Peterich, a wildfire mitigation specialist for South Florida, said the Keetch-Byram Drought Index for Palm Beach County (KBDI)  is similar to what it was at this time last year when the state was suffering widespread wildfires.

The index measures drought on a 0-to-800 scale with 800 being desert-like and 0 being saturated ground.

Palm Beach County’s KBDI was 526 on Wednesday. Typically, anything over 600 is associated with drought conditions.

The U.S. Drought Monitor tagged Palm Beach County as “abnormally dry” is its report last week. A new report will be issued today.

The next chance for showers in Palm Beach County is this weekend, with Saturday night given a 30 percent chance and a 60 percent chance forecast for Sunday.

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A cold front is forecast to reach South Florida Sunday, with drier air pushing through Monday afternoon.

Palm Beach County has received about 50 percent of what’s normal for rainfall this year, and is down between 2.77 and 3 inches since Jan. 2 according to the South Florida Water Management District.

Below are rainfall measurements for the past 24 hours from the district.

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Souped-up weather computer is size of a school bus

The Earth’s atmosphere is under an increasingly fine-tuned microscope, analyzed with bygone weather balloons still launched twice daily to pioneering satellites that capture the dazzling dances of frosted cloud tops.

It’s all in an effort to predict Mother Nature’s next move — whether tropical cyclone or Alberta clipper — but can fall short if the cornucopia of data feeds into a dullard computer.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

This month, two brawny supercomputers the size of school buses will be added to the weather forecasting capacity of the U.S. They are the cherries on top of a multiyear, multi million-dollar improvement to the National Weather Service’s forecast muscle, and will process mountains of calculations for a souped-up Global Forecast System (GFS) weather model.

“The supercomputer enables us to upgrade the model without suffering any lag time in getting information back,” said Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Miami. “We can capture more data and make the calculations even faster.”

This powerful new Dell supercomputer hums alongside NOAA’s IBM and Cray computers at a data center in Orlando, Fla. The systems combined in Florida and Virginia give NOAA 8.4 petaflops of total processing speed and pave the way for improved weather models and forecasts. Photo courtesy NOAA

The computers’ lickety-split speed is expressed in petaflops. One petaflop equals one quadrillion calculations per second. The addition of the new supercomputers boosts the overall braininess of the league of weather computer heavyweights to 8.4 petaflops.

RELATED: New weather satellite improves severe and seven-day forecasts

That means if everyone on Earth was given a calculator and asked to keep up with the supercomputers they would have to perform 1.2 million calculations per second, according to Dave Michaud, director of central processing for the National Weather Service.

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LISTEN: 911 caller reports lightning strike on woman who was 9 months pregnant

A baby delivered prematurely after his mother was struck by lightning last month in Fort Myers died this week, the youngest victim of the random killer since at least 2006.

Meghan Davidson, 26, was nine months pregnant when she was struck June 29 while walking in her neighborhood. She was released from the hospital last week, but the National Weather Service reported her son, Owen Davidson, died Wednesday. The Lee County Medical Examiner confirmed the death Friday.

The death is the sixth this year related to lightning and the fourth in Florida.

Related: Florida’s summer thunderstorms are unique, deadly.

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

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the National Weather Service, said the incident is unusual in that it’s rare for a pregnant woman to be struck by lightning, and in past cases when they have been struck, both the mother and unborn baby have died.

In 2012, a Pennsylvania woman, who was nine months pregnant, was struck and killed by lighting while picking blackberries in the woods. Her unborn baby also died. An earlier case occurred in 1988 when a 22-year-old New York woman, who was eight months pregnant, was killed talking on the telephone when lighting struck the phone lines outside her house. Her baby also died.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“We do not know how the fetus is affected by lightning, but we have a special case here in that the child’s injury may not have been from lightning, but from a lack of oxygen as the mother was in cardiac arrest,” said Mary Ann Cooper, a doctor who specializes in lighting-related injuries and professor emerita at the University of Illinois Department of Emergency Medicine. “It depends on how long the mother was in cardiac arrest and how long it took to deliver the child.”

Cooper said the only immediate cause of death from a lightning strike is cardiac arrest.

Related: Lightning kills randomly, know myth from fact.

In a 911 call made after Meghan Davidson was struck by lightning, the caller says witnesses can’t find a pulse and can’t tell if she’s breathing, but he also said she was moving around at one point.

Another 911 caller said Davidson was walking in the street under cloudy skies, but that it wasn’t raining or stormy at the time.

“Then all of a sudden there was a flash of lightning,” the neighbor told the 911 operator. “It startled my son.”

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

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Jensenius said the six lightning-related deaths this year are far below the average of 16 deaths that is normal for mid-July.

But three of Florida’s four deaths have occurred in the past two weeks, highlighting the increased danger during summer months. Most lightning deaths occur in July, followed by June and August.

Other lightning safety facts 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 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.

Florida led the nation in lightning deaths between 2007 and 2016 with 51 people killed. That’s twice as many as second-place Texas, which had 21 deaths. Arizona had the third highest number of deaths at 15.

Florida’s rank correlates with its storm activity. The state is tops in the nation for the number of days per year with thunderstorms, ranging from 80 along the coast to 100 in a more central region west of Lake Okeechobee.

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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.

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

Lightning kills second Florida man

A second Florida man was killed by lightning while working at a construction site.

The National Weather Service said a man in his 30s was killed Tuesday in Pembroke Pines. Another man was injured, but expected to recover.

Related: Amazing video of lightning strike on Florida beach 

This was the second lightning death in Florida this year and the third nationwide. In May, a Fort Pierce man was killed by lightning at a construction site in Jensen Beach.

Related: This is lightning season, know how to protect yourself

It’s an unusually low number for this time of year. On average, the number of people killed by lightning by June 27 is 11, according to NWS lightning expert John Jensenius.

Officials told NBC Miami 6 that the man who died Tuesday had major burns to his chest and “what officials describe as exit wounds consistent with a direct lightning strike.”

“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.