Sea World Hit by Sudden Bolt of Lightning, Injures Eight

Florida is lightning capital of the world, experts say

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By R. Leigh Coleman, Christian Post Reporter
August 18, 2011|4:12 pm

Lightning. It avoids the ocean, but likes Florida. This was confirmed this week when eight people were injured by a sudden strike of lightning at Orlando's SeaWorld Discovery Cove.

Three tourists and five employees were hurt when the storm hit the park. But, emergency officials told The Christian Post that although most lightning strikes are deadly, those caught in this storm did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

When the lightning storm suddenly hit the water park, guests were roaming around the patio area inside Discovery Cove and employees were working in the Adventure Photo cabana.

Discovery Cove, a sister park to SeaWorld Orlando, is the first park in Orlando to allow visitors a chance to swim alongside dolphins.

There were no injuries or damage reported in the marine life areas and aquarium tanks.

According to local officials, area fire departments were dispatched to the water park late Tuesday just as the storm was passing through the region.

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Weather forecasters had already sent out warnings stating the storm could produce intense winds and excessive lightning.

Sea World officials released a statement saying everyone affected by the strike was "conscious and alert" after being hit.

As of Thursday, all those injured were reportedly released from the hospital.

Area firefighters urged citizens to use caution during Florida's frequent lightning storms, according to a statement.

Lightning is not only spectacular, it’s dangerous.

About 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning each year. Hundreds more survive strikes but suffer from a variety of lasting symptoms, including memory loss, dizziness, weakness, numbness, and other life-altering ailments.

Some weather experts refer to Florida as the lightning capital of the world due to the frequency of lightning events.

"Florida experiences two sea breezes: one from the east coast and one from the west coast,” said Dennis Boccippio, an atmospheric scientist with the NSSTC lightning team.

“The ‘push’ between these two breezes forces ground air upward and triggers thunderstorms.”

NASA officials continue to study lightning and are developing new maps to better track global lightning patterns. Records show the most recent lightning death occurred on Aug. 8, when a 71-year-old man was chopping cotton in an open field in Rector, Ark.

Recent research reveals that cloud-to-ground lightning bolts are a common phenomenon. About 100 bolts strike the Earth’s surface every single second and yet their power is extraordinary, weather experts said.

Every bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity. New maps created by NASA show that Florida, for example, is one place where the rate of strikes is unusually high.

“Hundreds more survive strikes but suffer from a variety of lasting symptoms, including memory loss, dizziness, weakness, numbness, and other life-altering ailments,” Boccippio said.

According to Boccippio global patterns probably aren't much influenced by human activity.

Some people have suggested that buildings and metal communications towers increase the overall frequency of lightning strikes. But, "lightning that does make it to the ground is pretty much creating its own channels," Boccippio says.

The death toll has climbed to 19 for those killed by a strike of lightning in the United States.

For more information about lightening visit http://thunder.msfc.nasa.gov/.

Did you know?

What is lightning?

Within thunderclouds, turbulence spawned by updrafts causes tiny ice crystals and water droplets (called "hydrometeors") to bump around and collide. For reasons not fully understood, positive electric charge accumulates on smaller particles – that is, on hydrometeors smaller than about 100 micrometers – while negative charges grow on the larger ones. Winds and gravity separate the charged hydrometeors and produce an enormous electrical potential within the storm. Lightning is one of the mechanisms to relax this build-up.

When you see the lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder, then divide by 5 to know how many miles away the lightning is. This is possible since light travels faster than sound. Sound travels at 1,100 feet per second. If the lightning is closer than 30 seconds, it’s time to get to safety.

Source: NASA

What to do if you’re caught in a lightning storm?

If you are caught outside: (If you are unable to reach a safe building or car, knowing what to do can save your life.)
• If your skin tingles or your hair stands on the end, a lightning strike may be about to happen. Crouch down on the balls of your feet with your feet close together. Keep your hands on your knees and lower your head. Get as low as possible without touching your hands or knees to the ground. DO NOT LIE DOWN!
• If you are swimming, fishing or boating and there are clouds, dark skies and distant rumbles of thunder or flashes of lightning, get to land immediately and seek shelter.
• If you are in a boat and cannot get to shore, crouch down in the middle of the boat. Go below if possible.
• If you are on land, find a low spot away from trees, metal fences, pipes, tall or long objects.
• If you are in the woods, look for an area of shorter trees. Crouch down away from tree trunks.

For information about storm safety visit http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/emergency/weather/lightning/

 

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