There were more than 54,000 lightning strokes within Hurricane Florence in the three days between September 10 and 13, while the storm was still out at sea. If this intensity of lightning activity continued, it would have posed a significant danger to everyone in the path of the storm.
Compared to the hazards of high winds, windblown debris, storm surge, and flooding, damage and injuries due to lightning do not get the attention it deserves. As a minimum, Florence reminds us that essential services MUST BE PROTECTED by a lightning protection system that complies with recognized national standards. Top priorities include protecting emergency communication networks, hospitals, operational centers for first responders, the power grid, and emergency shelters. High hazard facilities like refineries, chemical plants, and petroleum storage facilities must also be protected to prevent environmental disasters. Consideration should also be given to protecting workplaces; even if they withstand the wind and water, a lightning strike could destroy the electrical equipment in the buildings and delay economic recovery after the storm.
It is too late to install lightning protection systems for Florence, but there will be more hurricanes this year and in years to come. If you own or are responsible for buildings in hurricane-prone areas, please take the necessary steps to protect your property and building occupants prior to future storms. For more information, contact the Lightning Protection Institute at www.lightning.org.
Lightning in Hurricane Florence Credit: Vaisala