Hazardous Weather

It doesn't take long for small puffy clouds to billow quickly into large and severe thunderstorms on a warm spring or summer day. These storms produce deadly electrical strikes that can be hotter than the surface of the sun.

Meteorologist Ray Hawthorne has more on this dangerous weather situation as he continues his special report on severe weather.

One unlucky strike could be lethal, and south Georgia and Florida residents know the dangers of lightning all too well, but not all clouds are created equal; only some are prolific lightning producers.

Geoff Stano, a graduate research assistant at FSU, says, "Generally when you're looking outside, if you see overcast skies, that's generally not going to be a strong lightning-producing day, but if you see the large puffy clouds, while they may not be forming lightning right then, that's an indication that the atmosphere is becoming more unstable, might be a chance for thunderstorms later in the day."

Stano is among a team of researchers working under Dr. Henry Fuelberg at FSU, and they're trying to find out which communities are impacted the most by lightning.

A map of Leon and parts of Gadsden Counties shows that the greatest concentration of strikes occur in southern Leon County, probably because of storms that form along the sea breeze. There's another area that gets hit inside of Capital Circle itself, but researchers are not completely sure why.

Still, it's important to know what to do when lightning strikes.

Bill Cottrill, FSU Weather Station Manager, says, "The best thing to do whenever there is the threat of lightning is to get indoors into a nice structure that is safe from lightning."

If no shelter is available, Bill says, "The way to minimize this is to stoop down as low as possible without laying down on the ground. You do not want much of your body touching the ground at all."

If your hair is standing up on end, you could be struck within seconds. Your best bet is to crouch down.

Of course, don't forget to unplug those valuable electronics.

Lightning is the number two weather killer nationwide, responsible for 73 deaths annually. It is also costly. In fact, 53 percent of all insurance claims from Georgia are lightning-related.