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Hazardous Weather Awareness

The possibility of extreme damage and frequency of hurricanes commands the most attention and respect of Florida residents. Florida residents are well versed in hurricane awareness and preparation. Importantly, Florida residents must also be aware of other hazardous weather events that can cause damage and deaths that could possibly surpass what hurricanes can inflict on the population. It is important to be aware of these events and when forecasted to occur, take precautions to protect property and personal well-being. These hazardous weather events include lightning and tornadoes.

Florida is the LIGHTNING capital of the USA, killing more people in the State than all other weather events combined. In fact, the State has the highest number of lightning casualties of all 50 states. When lightning is in the area, anywhere outdoors is dangerous. Particularly hazardous locations are near water or trees, on high places such as house roofs, and in open fields such as golf courses.

When lightning storm occurs, it is important to follow these rules: Go quickly inside a completely enclosed building. If no enclosed building is convenient, get inside a hard-topped building. This shelter is much safer than a carport, open garage, or covered patio. Avoid leaning against vehicles, and get off a bicycle, motorcycle, or golf cart. Get out of the water, off the beach, and out of a small boat, kayak, or canoe. Do not use metal objects such as golf clubs, tennis rackets, fishing poles, or tools. Do not take shelter under a tree. If there is no shelter, avoid being the tallest object in the area. If located in an area with only isolated trees nearby, crouch on the balls of your feet, and keep twice as far away from a tree as it is tall.

TORNADOES are extremely destructive storms of normally short duration. Tornadoes normally form several thousand feet above the earth’s surface, primarily during warm, humid, unsettled weather and most typically in conjunction with a severe thunderstorm. Tornadoes can be very localized and in the State of Florida the average tornado is 475 feet wide and three miles in length.

A tornado watch is broadcast when conditions are favorable for a tornado to occur. A tornado warning is broadcasted when a tornado is sighted in the immediate area or observed by radar. Because tornados generally occur in conjunction with thunderstorms, if thunderstorms are in the area, listen to local media for information and instructions, and if a revolving funnel shaped cloud is spotted, call 9-1-1 immediately.

If a tornado is spotted or a warning has been issued, seek safe shelter immediately staying away from doors, outside walls, and open spaces, and protect your head against falling objects or debris. Do not attempt to out-race a storm by driving your car. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head. Even low spots on the ground provide some modicum of protection.

In summary, Indian River County is susceptible to a number or natural hazards that can often develop quickly. Be aware of these hazards and have plans in place prior to any emergency so that lives and property will be protected. Stay calm, listen to local media for the latest weather advisories and forecasts, and call 9-1-1 or Public Safety, 772-231-2451, to report any unusual events.