August 2017

Important phone numbers and websites

Pinellas County Emergency Management: (727) 464-3800 |

Find your evacuation level: (727) 453-3150 |

Special Needs Registration: (727) 464-3800 |

Follow Pinellas County Emergency Management on Twitter |

Download the new Ready Pinellas app |

Sign up for Pinellas County's Emergency Notification Service Alert Pinellas: (866) 484-3264 |

Set your Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) equipped all-hazards alert radio for Pinellas County: Enter code 012103

If you know someone who would like to receive the e-Lert newsletter, have them visit


Sally Says

Sally Bishop photoFrom the Desk of Pinellas County's Emergency Management Director

When Lightning Strikes

We’ve all been there. We’re on the beach enjoying friends, or sitting by the pool, or watching our kids play soccer. The sun is shining and then, all of a sudden, dark clouds roll in and a cool breeze and low rumble warn us of an approaching storm. This is the time to take preventative action. The fact that seven people have already been killed by lightning strikes in Florida this season (as of this writing) is testament to the devastating nature of our summer storms. Not surprisingly, four of those people who were struck were relaxing and having fun outdoors, according to the National Weather Service.

None of these incidents occurred in Pinellas County, but we have had our fair share of tragedy in the past. For example, a man was struck by lightning July 2016 in Indian Shores while he was on the beach – luckily he was OK. In June of 2015, a Largo man was killed by a lightning bolt while walking. In May of 2014, a man was killed while working construction. Lightning hits homes and blows out appliances, it splits trees and it causes house fires. Still, people don’t take it seriously.

Think about the last time you saw the dark clouds and heard the thunder. What was your reaction? Did you pack up and head for shelter? Or did you wait until you saw the lightning bolt light up the sky?

The basic rule of lightning and thunderstorm safety is that if you hear thunder, you are in danger, as lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away. There is a children’s book that the Florida Division of Emergency Management publishes called “The 30/30 Rule” and it underlines a simple rule that all of us should use to stay safe:

  • Go inside if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of a lightning flash.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after you hear thunder before going back outside.

Powerful thunderstorms can create yet another danger: tornadoes. Florida ranks third in the nation for average number of tornadoes each year. Called waterspouts when they are over water, tornadoes can strike quickly with strong rotating winds of 30 to 70 mph, leaving a trail of damage. Once a tornado approaches, you only have an average of 12 minutes to seek safe shelter.

We don’t want you to stop having fun – just be prepared. Have mobile alert notification systems activated on your phone. Look around when you arrive at your destination and locate a safe place to shelter in case it is needed. Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the sky. If you see a storm coming your way or hear the rumble of thunder, you and your family and friends can get to safety well in advance of danger. Being armed with knowledge, you can plan to protect yourself from all hazards.

Stay safe.

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Lightning Myths & Facts


Myth: If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.

Fact: Crouching doesn’t make you safer outdoors from lightning. (However, In the case of a tornado, you should find a ditch if possible, crouch and cover your head for protection.)

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.

Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, because when lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame and into the ground. It is not safe to be in convertibles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles, cars with fiberglass shells or on motorcycles, bicycles or skateboards.

Myth: If you touch a lightning victim you will be electrocuted.

Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid.

Myth: If you are outdoors during a thunderstorm you should seek shelter under a tree.

Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties.

Read more about lightning myths and facts at

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Different Ways Lightning Strikes

lightning_IconDirect Strike: A person struck directly becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel. This happens most often in open areas. It is not common but is the most deadly strike.

lightning_IconSide Flash: Lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the victim. This usually happens when the person is close to the object, usually a tree.

lightning_IconGround Current: Lightning strikes a tree or other object and energy travels outward and along the ground surface. Anyone who is outside in the area is a potential victim. This type causes the most injuries and deaths.

lightning_IconConduction: Lightning travels in wires or other metal surfaces and can cause casualties to anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing or metal surfaces. This type causes the most indoor casualties and some outdoor casualties.

lightning_IconStreamers: Caused with the discharge of streamers that develop from a main lightning strike. While not as common as the other types of lightning injuries, people caught in streamers can be injured or killed.

(Source: National Weather Service)

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