Oh, #Florida!

Forget Fireworks. Check Out Florida’s Lightning.
The rules are different here.
July 4 2013 11:45 AM

Oh, #Florida!

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The lightning capital of the United States.

The space shuttle Discovery rolls out to Launch Pad 39A with lightning in the area at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The space shuttle Discovery rolls out to Launch Pad 39A with lightning in the area at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., in August 2009.

Photo by NASA/Handout/Reuters

Today, all across America, people will gather on beaches and lawns, in parks and stadiums, to watch a dazzling flash-bang show of fireworks.

In Florida we get a dazzling flash-bang show nearly every day, all summer long. That’s because Florida is the lightning capital of the United States—or, as one of my friends likes to say, “Florida boasts the most lightning-scorched landscape in North America.”

The reasons have to do with both geography and meteorology, not to mention our location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The result is 90 to 100 days of major thunderstorms across central and southern Florida every year.

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A Florida lightning storm can be more awe-inspiring than any mere fireworks display. Thunder clouds fill the sky to the point that you wonder if the apocalypse is nigh. Then multiple bolts start zapping this way and that, one right on top of the other, jagged streaks of blinding brightness followed by a bone-rattling, brain-jolting boom.

The one downside to these displays is that Florida frequently leads the nation in injuries and fatalities from lightning strikes—averaging six deaths and 39 injuries a year over the past decade. So this is the rare Florida outdoor attraction that's best viewed from inside your house or hotel.

Craig Pittman is a native Floridian and an award-winning reporter who covers environmental issues for the state's largest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. He is the author of three books, the most recent of which is The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid. Follow him on Twitter at @craigtimes

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