2018 deadly year for lightning strikes in Florida

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Lightning strikes the United States about 25-million times a year, and the electric weather we have here in Florida is unmatched in any other state. People can be struck year-round. Dozens are killed and hundreds of others hurt by the powerful bolts.

This week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week -- an annual push to call attention to this underrated killer.

In 2018, so far, five people have died in Florida after being struck by lightning. That's the amount Florida typically has for an entire year.

This week, on Wednesday a man was struck by lightning while he was on his boat in Lake County.

"About 28 people are struck and killed unfortunately every single year," said National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Lamarre. "Lightning is almost the secret killer because people think they're safe, they can be outside, and that's where pretty much all people are killed."

The Sunday before, 33-year-old James Barton of Seffner was walking along the beach at Siesta Key when he was hit by a bolt. Bystanders tried to revive him, but he was later pronounced deceased.

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For every tragedy, there are even more close calls. Earlier this month, Fred Lockmuller Canariss was only a few feet away when lightning struck outside his Riverview office.

"Boom! Lightning hit the flagpole," Canariss remembered. "It blew the grass away. You can see the dead grass; [it] traveled underground all the way under the concrete, and blew this huge chunk of concrete out right here."

Another close call was caught by surveillance cameras in the parking lot of the Apopka Police Department. An officer getting out of his vehicle jumped back in when lightning struck right behind him.


Officials say a massive fire at the Allegro Palm Apartments in Riverview two weeks ago was likely sparked by lightning.

Lightning can strike up to 25 miles away from its parent thunderstorm and reaches temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun.

Lamarre says, "If you can hear thunder, you are within distance of being killed."

That's why officials say “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a building or a vehicle with a hard top.

For more lightning safety tips, visit weather.gov/safety/lightning.