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Severe storms: More than just thunder

Lightning
Posted at 12:22 AM, May 30, 2013
and last updated 2014-05-02 09:33:06-04

While thunderstorms are rather common in Florida and south Georgia, a smaller fraction of them grow into stronger storms that create a severe weather concern. Thunderstorms, regardless of strength, carry the hazards of local heavy rain and lightning, including lightning strikes that can reach the ground. Thunderstorms produce more lightning in Florida than in any other state. Severe thunderstorms are those that contain wind gusts of at least 58 mph, quarter-size hail or larger, or tornadoes, or a combination of the three.

Severe storms are encountered locally by strong low-pressure systems bring severe storms during the winter and spring months, and sometimes from intense summer storms produced by the daytime seabreeze. A downburst, as the name implies, is an intense flow of air moving out of a thunderstorm and downward toward the ground. Downbursts are capable of producing damage similar to a tornado.

HOW TO STAY SAFE

  • Know the risk of possible severe thunderstorms by monitoring forecasts from the WTXL ABC 27 Storm Team.
  • Go inside if you hear thunder less than 30 seconds after seeing lightning. Wait at least 30 minutes after the final thunder rumble to return outdoors.
  • Listen for the issuance of a severe thunderstorm watch or a severe thunderstorm warning.
  • Remain alert during a severe thunderstorm watch. Take action during a severe thunderstorm warning.
  • Quickly move to a small interior room, without windows, on the lowest floor of your secured-foundation home or building.
  • Avoid using electrical equipment or contact with such items. Avoid windows in wind gust situations.
  • Avoid water or other sources of water transport, like plumbing.
  • If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a nearby building or an enclosed metal vehicle. If one is not available, crouch down while remaining on your heels and cover your head as a last resort. Do not lie flat. Do not seek shelter under a tree or open structure. There is no 100%-effective safety measure against lightning when outdoors!
  • Mobile homes are not safe in strong wind gusts. Find sturdier shelter safely but immediately.