The lightning associated with the thunderstorms we experience predominately during our summer months can be deadly. Florida leads the nation in lightning-caused deaths with about 10 a year – almost twice than any other state. Most of these people happened to be in open areas, such as beaches. Many people know to seek shelter once the storm clouds are overhead. Few realize, however that one of the most dangerous times for a fatal strike is before the storm arrives. Lightning can strike up to 20 miles away from the rain area of the thunderstorm, seeming to occur “out of the clear blue sky” or when the sun is shining. These “bolts of blue” account for many fatalities. Life guards will clear and close all swimming and beach areas well before the storm arrives. It is very important to cooperate and follow the directives of the lifeguard during this period. Another time underestimated for its potential danger is as the end of the thunderstorm. This is why a beach which has been closed will not re-open immediately after a storm has passed and the sun comes out.
The safest place to be if you are at the beach during a thunderstorm is in your car. Simply going under an open-sided shelter with a roof, such as a beach pavilion will not guarantee your safety.
Off Shore Winds
Off shore winds are easterly wind, blowing seaward from the land also called land breeze. These tend to cause problems with people on floats, rafts or tubes in that the wind pushes them away from the shoreline. After realizing how far adrift they become many individuals now have difficulty getting back to shore against the wind.
Children playing with their floats and adults sleeping on their rafts are often unknowingly carried seaward by these winds.
Another problem is with beach balls or other loose floating objects drifting away from swimmers. Bathers trying to retrieve these items often end up exhausted in deep water needing assistance in getting back.
During these conditions the lifeguard may determine if the use of floats is unsafe and prohibit their use during extreme off shore wind conditions.
A shore break is when a wave breaks directly on the beach. These waves can forcibly knock people down as they are entering or leaving the water causing various types of injuries. Elderly and frail individuals are at greatest risk during these conditions.
If you feel you need help entering and exiting the water ask a life guard for assistance. Remember- If in doubt stay out. The following website will provide you with the most up-to-date water conditions: visitbeaches.org