KISSIMMEE, Fla., July 16, 2009 – Lightning from recent afternoon thunderstorms in Central Florida has left behind brush fires, damaged homes, power outages and residents scrambling for cover.
Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) understands the impact lightning can have on a community. Each year, its infrastructure, both overhead and underground, suffers damage caused by lightning.
KUA regularly installs protection devices to help secure its infrastructure (and ultimately the customer) from damage caused by lightning strikes. “But with temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and the energy equivalent of 100 million electrical volts, a bolt of lightning is quite difficult to control,” said Chris Gent, KUA’s vice president of corporate communications.
The U.S. receives as many as 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. In a typical year, more Americans are killed by lightning than by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes combined. Florida consistently ranks first in the nation for lightning-related deaths.
KUA offers these tips to avoid electrical storms and decrease a person’s chance of getting struck:
* If outside, seek refuge in a car or grounded building when lightning or thunder begins.
* If inside, stay away from doors and windows and avoid taking baths, showers and washing dishes. Also avoid using landline phones, televisions and other appliances that conduct electricity.
* Stay inside for 30 minutes after you last see lightning or hear thunder. People have been struck by lightning from storms centered as far as 10 miles away.
* If caught outside away from a building or car, stay clear of water bodies and tall objects like trees. Find a low spot or depression and crouch down as low as possible – but don’t lie down on the ground. Lightning can move in and along the ground surface, and many victims are struck not by bolts but by the accompanying electrical current.
Founded in 1901, KUA (www.kua.com) is Florida’s sixth largest community-owned utility providing electric and telecommunication services to 62,000 customers in Osceola County, Fla.
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Chris M. Gent