Every summer I find myself looking out toward the beach from the safety of my car, saying "ARE THESE PEOPLE CRAZY?" as I watch people going about their normal activities as lightning strikes violently a short distance up the beach in a lightning storm that is rapidly approaching. Every summer I read about some of them in the newspaper as victims of deadly lightning strikes.
PLEASE, if you can see lightning striking, even in the distance, it's time to get off the beach, get off the fishing pier, beach your sailboat/kayak/fishing boat, and find shelter. Get into your car or into a building. Wait a while and the storm will often pass. Florida is often referred to as the lightning capital of the world. During the summer months, from June through September, we normally have lightning DAILY. Often it is quite ferocious. You don't have to let it strike fear into you, just respect it and stay out of the way.
What Not To Do on the Beach During a Lightning Storm
Above is a great video that is a textbook example of how to commit suicide by lightning. These folks are out on Caladesi Island as a strong thunderstorm approaches. They are out on the open beach under a perfect lightning rod-- their beach umbrella. People die every summer in the Clearwater beach area from lightning strikes on the beach. This is why. These people should have packed up and headed for a picnic pavilion or the park concession which is just a short walk away. It's a no-brainer.
If you are out on the beach when a thunderstorm approaches:
- Get off the beach if you can hear thunder or see lightning, even if it is in the distance.
- Lightning can strike more than 25 miles from the thunderstorm in which it originates.
- Do not take shelter under a tree.
- Take shelter in a building (even a bathroom if necessary).
- Take shelter in your car.
- Do not go into the water or touch the water. Lightning travels easily through salt water and can kill multiple people near the strike.
- Do not go back out onto the beach until at least 1/2 hour after the last thunder is heard. The most deaths from lightning occur either 1/2 hour before the storm arrives or 1/2 hour after it passes.
- If you are caught in the open and cannot seek shelter, squat down on the ground with only your feet touching the ground. Stay away from fences, electric poles, metal objects, trees. Get as low as possible.