August 2018

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 |

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


From the Desk of Pinellas County Emergency Management Interim Director, David Halstead

Lightning kills

National Lightning Safety Week, from June 24-30, started in 2001 to call attention to this killer and educate people about safety. This awareness campaign comes at the time of year when the pattern of afternoon thunderstorms begins.

Public education continues throughout the year to warn residents and visitors about the danger and urge them to take shelter during these storms.

Sadly, not everyone follows our advice. Tragically, Florida has already suffered three deaths from lightning strikes this year.

  • On May 16, a Lake Worth woman was killed on a farm in Parkland while she picked cucumbers. Two other workers were injured.
  • On June 11, a landscaper was killed doing yard work at a condominium in Margate.
  • During the afternoon on Sunday, June 24, a woman from Seffner died from a lightning strike while on Siesta Key beach.

Florida is often referred to as the "lightning capital of the country" because it has the most lightning strikes per square mile of any state in the U.S. With so many people in Florida participating in recreational activities, and employment that often keeps residents outdoors, the number of those who are vulnerable to strikes is alarming.

"When it roars go indoors" is more than a catchy phrase. The messages that are repeated every year are very serious. When you see a storm approaching, and hear the thunder, please find safe shelter. It could save your life and the lives of those who are with you.

The only good thing about our summer storms is that they pass rather quickly, giving us plenty of time to return to the outdoors and resume our activities or finish our work.

Please, follow take the warnings seriously and follow the guidelines we have outlined in this newsletter and which you hear through the media and social media. Learn more about thunder and lightning, and keep an eye to the sky whenever you are outdoors.

Be safe.

David Halstead
Pinellas County Emergency Management Interim Director

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Lightning Myths and 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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Tornadoes too

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, so find the safest place in your home or business and be prepared to shelter there until the threat of a tornado passes.

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