It’s hot and humid, and the mosquitos are buzzing. Break out the sunscreen - there’s nothing quite like Florida in the summertime.
And don’t forget the rainy season – May through November. The peak of the season comes in the next three months – June, July and August. Thanks to the sea breeze, thunderstorms are expected. June 1 marks the start of hurricane season, which lasts through November.
Living in paradise is a phrase often repeated in Pinellas County. But, keeping your cool can prove challenging in the summertime.
A few simple survival tips should help.
• Water is your friend. Use caution with alcohol during the heat of the day.
• Wear lightweight clothing in light colors. A hat is a must-wear when out in the sun.
• Do not go to the beach without sunscreen.
• Be prepared to fight mosquitos, especially at dusk and dawn. Use a repellant. Remove sources of standing water around your home.
• When thunder roars, follow the advice of the National Weather Service, and go indoors. Lightning is a killer. Keep tuned to the hurricane forecast and keep your survival kit stocked.
• Lower the electric bill by turning down the thermostat.
Stay cool and healthy
The Pinellas County Department of Health offers several tips to help people beat the heat and stay healthy, including the following.
1. Outdoor activities should be limited to morning and evening, if possible. If you have to be outdoors, try to rest often indoors or in shady areas so that your body temperature will have a chance to recover.
2. Drink more fluids and don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
3. Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing and protect them with hats or an umbrella.
4. When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat along with sunglasses and apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Continue to reapply sunscreen according to the package directions.
5. People who are not used to hot weather should pace themselves. If working or playing in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop everything. Get to a cool area or at least get into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or feel like you are going to faint.
6. Stay indoors and, if possible, within an air-conditioned place. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, visit an enclosed shopping mall or public library. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Electric fans provide some comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness.
7. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals – they add heat to the body.
8. Do not leave infants, children or pets in a parked car.
9. Provide plenty of fresh water for pets and leave their water in a shady area.
Florida tops the charts when it comes to deaths attributed to lightning with 468 occurring from 1959-2012. Texas ranks No. 2 for the same period with only 215 deaths. Tampa Bay is in the top three areas in the state for the number of lightning strikes that occur each year.
“Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena – lightning,” according to the National Weather Service. “Though lightning strikes peak in summer, people are struck year round. In the United States, an average of 53 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are severely injured.”
Statistics show that most lightning victims are struck outdoors; however, lightning also poses a threat to those indoors as well. June, July, and August, the peak months for lightning, coincide with the peak months for outdoor summer activities. About 70 percent of the lightning deaths occur during those months.
The National Weather Service uses the catch phrase, “When it roars, go indoors” to bring home the message that lightning can strike from as far as 10 miles away. Officials want people to know if they can hear thunder, they are in danger of being struck by lightning.
The only safe places to be during a thunderstorm are inside a building with four walls and a roof or in a car. A hut, cabana, tent, or other rain shelter will not protect a person from lightning strikes.
When indoors, do not touch anything plugged into an electrical outlet. Stay away from plumbing and do not use corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe. Also, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.
If you are outdoors and see darkening skies or hear thunder, seek a sturdy, enclosed shelter immediately, such as a building or hardtop automobile.
“Don’t wait for rain to start falling to seek shelter from the storm – by then it could be too late,” said John Jensenius, lightning expert with the NOAA National Weather Service. “Lightning causalities frequently occur before the rain begins and soon after the rain ends. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before returning outside.”