Protecting yourself, your home from lightning strikes in Southwest Florida

Firefighters battle a house fire caused by a lightning strike. Credit: WINK News

In June alone, lightning struck two homes in Cape Coral, and neighbors think a Charlotte County house fire may have been caused by lightning. How common are lightning strikes to homes in Southwest Florida, and how can you protect against them?

Nothing can guarantee your home won’t get hit, because 5% of the structure fires in Florida are caused by lightning strikes; that means nearly 2,500 every year across the state.

There are several things you can do to minimize the risk of lightning hitting your home:

  1. You need to make sure you unplug everything in your home if there is a storm coming and you plan on leaving
  2. Make sure not to use too much water or take a shower, especially if know you have metal pipes
  3. You can buy lightning arresters.
Firefighters battle a house fire caused by a lightning strike. Credit: WINK News

“Those are things that would be installed within the power system, the power grid, by an electrician, lightning rods, which help allow the electricity to reach the ground,” said Susan M. Lindenmuth, the director of public affairs for Estero Fire Rescue. “When we do have lightning strikes, sometimes that doesn’t go noticed quickly when it is a part-time resident, so make sure you have an alarm system and you have smoke alarms.”

Installing lightning protection systems in a house costs between a little over $400 and $2,500. On average, it costs around $1,400.

Florida led the country in 2021 for the most deaths linked to lightning strikes and Estero Fire Rescue officials say all of those deaths occurred outside. research shows that the state sees around 70 to 100 days a year with at least one thunderstorm, making lightning strikes one of the most deadly weather hazards in the state.

The aftermath of a house fire in Southwest Florida. Credit: WINK News

Lindenmuth “We always hear that Florida’s lightning capital of the country, and it is true: We have the most lightning strikes, so that 2,000 just in the last 50 years alone,” Lindenmuth said. “And last year, in 2021, we had the most deaths of anyone in the country.”

“My advice to people, when they see the afternoon storms coming in, is to really check their weather,” said Andrea Schuch, public affair specialist for the Cape Coral Fire Department. “Be prepared to very quickly go indoors. You don’t want to shower or really be using water at that time, because if you have metal piping, then the electricity can move through the piping.”

One thing to remember: Lightning can go for miles ahead of a storm and strike even if there are no clouds above you.

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