Florida mother becomes 14th US lightning fatality this year
The woman was struck in a park while waiting to pick up her child up from a nearby school, officials said.
The odds of getting struck by lightning are literally less than one in a million, yet you could increase your risk while doing seemingly innocent activities.
A Florida woman was killed and two others injured after being struck by lightning Thursday afternoon while waiting in a park to pick up her child from elementary school, authorities said.
The incident occurred about 15 miles north of Orlando in Winter Springs, Florida, when the mother and another family member were waiting for the child to be dismissed from a nearby school. Police believe the mother, child and a teenager were all waiting near a tree in Trotwood Park when the strike occurred.
"While they were waiting, a lightning strike came down and energized the area, which required them to be taken to the hospitals for treatment," Capt. Doug Seely of the Winter Springs Police Department said during a press conference.
"Sadly, the mother passed away from the injuries," the Winter Springs Police Department later said in a statement.
Lightning is seen in the sky over the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Thursday, March 26, 2020. Strong winds and hail are forecast for the area. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Also injured was a dog, which was taken to a local veterinary clinic. The child and dog were seen by medical professionals and "are doing fine," police said.
According to local news outlet Click Orlando, first responders said the teenager had left the scene on her own, reporting she was fine. However, she later called to be taken to the hospital. She was in stable condition Friday.
The names of the victims have not yet been released. Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma called it a "tragic day in the City of Winter Springs."
"Please say a prayer for the family who has lost a mother, and all of those involved and affected by today's storm. Our team responded to assist the city and family - and remains ready to support the school district and community with any needs," Lemma said via social media Thursday evening.
Thunderstorms started rolling through central Florida early in the day, and there was a fairly solid line of storms over the Winter Springs area around 2 to 3 p.m., AccuWeather senior meteorologist David Houk said.
Radar loop from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2022.
"While lightning with the storms was not more notable than typical thunderstorms that build up many days during the wet season in Florida, they did result in over 50 strikes hitting the ground across Seminole County with this thin line of storms," Houk said.
Seminole County Public Schools shared a statement via social media Thursday evening about the incident.
"This afternoon one of our Seminole County Public Schools' students from Keeth Elementary and a member of their family were involved in a weather-related event," the statement read. "Shortly after the scheduled start of dismissal, a rapidly developing storm resulted in the immediate suspension of dismissal procedures."
This is the second lightning-related fatality in Florida this year and is now the 14th in the United States for 2022. On average, 18 Americans are killed each year by lightning by Aug. 18, based on the past decade's figures, noted John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Lightning Safety Council.
Houk noted that Florida is considered "the lightning capital of the U.S." "From June into September, the threat for lightning somewhere across the state shows up nearly every day," he added.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory reports that the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 15,300. But when lightning does strike a person, the sudden bolt can result in cardiac arrest. And although only about 10% of victims are killed, strikes nevertheless can leave people with many long-term health problems.
The National Lightning Safety Council recommends that if thunderstorms are predicted, people should consider canceling or postponing outdoor activities, especially if someone won't be able to get to a safe place quickly.
"We always warn that 'if thunder roars, head indoors'," Houk said. "Lightning has been known to strike as far as 10 miles from the core of a thunderstorm, which means as soon as you hear thunder, you should seek safe shelter in an enclosed structure or automobile."
Jensenius explained that taking shelter under a tree when lightning is occurring is "dangerous."
"As the initial lightning channel moves rapidly from the cloud toward the ground, it is simply looking for the closest connection. That closest connection is usually one of the taller objects in the immediate area, which is often a tree," Jensenius said. "While tall objects don't attract lightning, they are more likely to be struck."
Rather than penetrating deep into the ground, the charge from a lightning strike hitting a tree spreads along the ground surface in what's called a "ground current," Jensenius explained.
"That makes the entire area around a tree dangerous and anyone standing under or near a tree is vulnerable to this potentially deadly ground current," said Jensenius.
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