June 6, 2001 -- The chances of being struck by lightning may be slim, but folks in Florida may disagree; 10 people were struck down in the Sunshine State this past week.
Lightning bolts there killed one man and injured nine others. Ron Holle, a lightning expert with Global Atmospherics, a Tucson-based company that runs lightning detection networks worldwide, says these incidences remind people that lightning can often be deadly and is usually hard to predict.
Holle says lightning strike hundreds of people in the United States each year. Nationwide, lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes.
There are ways to protect yourself, but Holle says people don't head for cover quickly enough when they see signs of trouble.Holle says Global Atmospherics, government agencies and universities came up with a lightning danger gauge called the "30-30 rule."
"If you see lightning and you count the number of seconds until you hear thunder, if it's 30 seconds or less, it is time to take action," said Holle on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
Then, you should wait 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning and rumble of thunder. But even then there is a 20 percent chance there will be flashes of lightning that still put you at risk, he says.
Holle dispels the idea that cars are safe because of their rubber tires, but says cars with metal roofs are a safe place to hide. The lightning will go around the metal and into the ground, he says.
Duck and Cover
Holle says small buildings don't make good hiding places, but that large buildings offer protection from lightning bolts.
Lightning strikes somewhere in the United States about 55,000 times a day. Because of its potent mix of heat and humidity, Florida gets approximately 3,500 lightning strikes a day. It's estimated that five to 10 people there are killed each year by lightning.
Experts estimate that up to 100 people are killed by lightning each year in the United States.
A direct strike is deadly. At 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun.
The latest victim in Florida, a Colorado tourist, was standing on the beach in Fort Lauderdale next to his girlfriend Saturday when a bolt of lightning hit and killed him, according to the Ft. Lauderdale police. The man's girlfriend was treated for burns.
Just one of the other nine people struck in the past week suffered serious injuries.A 39-year-old fisherman was in intensive care with second-degree burns over 20 percent to 25 percent of his body after being stuck while fishing over the weekend.