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Miami: The Lightning Capital of the World

By: Alejandra Serna

Miami is often associated with beautiful beaches, wild nightlife and pastel colors. Despite being a world famous city, few know it by its most notorious title – lightning capital of the world. Miami’s warm, humid conditions are the most favorable for thunderstorms. These complex natural entities can produce heavy rain, hail, strong winds, lightning, etc. Once winds exceed 57.5 mph or hail measures 1/4 in. in diameter, the thunderstorm is labeled severe.

To remain safe, you must take the appropriate steps before, during and after the storm. If you’re lucky enough to receive a pre-storm warning, your main task is finding shelter. Unfortunately that isn’t easy at times, so there are different guidelines for every situation.

If you’re at the beach during a thunderstorm, your goal is to get as far away from the water as possible. The main threat is lightning, and because water conducts electricity, it will actually magnify the shock of a lightning bolt. Although some think a boat is as good as land in this case, that is pure myth. As boats are predominantly large and bear many metal parts, they only serve as large targets for lightning. On the contrary, a car is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm because of its rubber tires. Nonetheless, never drive in a storm. If you’re on the road, pull over immediately and remain inside the car.

Generally, outdoor activities on dry land follow other guidelines. If you’re with a large group of people, spread out as much as possible and stay low to the ground in a cradled position. This will make you smaller targets and reduce your chances of getting hit. Most importantly, avoid trees and any tall metal objects that might attract lightning.

One tip to help you assess danger is the lightning-based 30/30 rule. Lightning causes thunder by heating the air and generating shockwaves that turn into sound waves, resulting in thunder. Knowing this sequence, you can estimate a storm’s proximity by counting after spotting a lightning bolt until thunder is heard. If you count for 30 seconds or less, lightning posses a major threat and shelter should be sought immediately. As the storm subsides, wait 30 minutes after the last lightning bolt before leaving shelter.

Post-storm safety means mainly guarding against the effects of heavy rain. For instance, do not drive on flooded roads, because you cannot estimate depth or trust the security of the soil. You could knowingly drive yourself off a bridge.

Thunderstorms can pose serious threats, especially in water-adorned Miami. Some of the charges emitted during severe thunderstorms are sufficient to thoroughly barbeque your internal organs upon contact. To avoid becoming shish-kabob, merely use a mix of common sense and preparation. All you need is the correct response to your situation.


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0 0 179 15 July, 2003 Educational, Green, News July 15, 2003

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