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Lightning Strikes Florida Construction Workers

Paraphrased by
Steve Waldrop
July 29, 2003

Three construction workers narrowly missed being hit with a lightning strike while eating their lunch under a large tree near Clearwater, Florida.

The sky was clear when the men who were working on the U.S. 19 and Drew Street overpass, took a lunch break, and a sudden storm came upon them."The lightning struck, traveled through the tree and into the ground where they were subjected to a significant amount of electrical energy," said Lt. Wendy Cason with Clearwater Fire Rescue. "No one got struck directly. They all described similar feelings of the jolt, the whoa, the zap."

Fellow construction worker Cayestone Rodriguez said the jolt came out of nowhere. "They sat by the tree, and the thunder started and then the Lightning," he said.

One of the men who had been shocked got up and asked a fellow worker to call 911. When firefighters arrived, they pulled the men inside ambulance and looked them over.

A direct lightning strike will cause death. But even with an indirect strike, the men would likely be kept overnight because there is a chance that their heartbeat could be altered by the electricity, Carson said.

Florida recorded nine deaths in 2002 caused by lightning. One of those deaths occurred under a tree, another was on a boat and the remainder were outside, in the open.

The National Lightning Safety Institute reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published the following data for the years 1959 - 1994.

27% of lightning strikes occured in open fields and recreation areas

3% involved heavy equipment and machinery

84% of victims were male

Months of most incidents: June 21%, July 30% and August 22%

Time of day of most incidents: 2 to 6 p.m.

Top five states for lightning deaths: Florida, Michigan, Texas, New York, Tennessee

Remember- If you can hear it, clear it... If you can see it, flee it.

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