Florida postal worker struck, severely injured by lightning

Jose Castro – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Fort Lauerdale, FL, United States (4E) – A Fort Lauerdale postal worker was severely injured last Friday as a lightning struck her vehicle. According to a city official, the female postal worker was inside her mail truck while on East Commercial Boulevard, Fort Lauerdale, FL when a lightning strike occurred near the vehicle. This caused thousands of volts of electricity to course through the vehicle while she was inside.

She was in contact with her vehicle, causing her to be electrocuted resulting in burns on her body. Paramedics teams soon responded to her and brought her to Broward Health Hospital where doctors said she was in serious but stable condition. She had her hand on a metal part of the vehicle when the lightning struck.

According to Weather.com meteorologist Chrissy Warrilow recommended, to avoid electrocution, “it’s to fold your hand and in your lap and avoid touching anything inside the car.”

The myth is that the vehicle provides protection from the lightning’s electricity by being insulated by the car’s tires. What actually occurs is that the electricity flows outside of the car and it flows around the metal frame of the vehicle into the ground below.

Some vehicles though may present different characteristics. For example, convertibles do not have metal roofs or others that use non metal parts, which inhibits the flow of electricity.

Another issue is that other metal parts of the vehicle would conduct the electricity, from foot pedals, car door handles, steering column and the thousands of other metal parts. In a study by the National Lightning Safety Institute, vehicles struck by lightning suffer not only external damage but also internal electronic short circuiting.

This when outside, in a lightning storm, it is best to use a metal framed and roofed vehicles. The passengers must keep their hands on their laps and avoid being in contact with anything metal inside the car. Do not touch the radio or use one’s mobile phone, when connected to the vehicle. It is best to pull to the side of the road, turn on hazard lights with the engine off until the storm passes. If the vehicle is blasted with a lightning strike, do not go out, as the ground may still be electrically active. Wait until the storm passes before exiting the vehicle.

No other individuals were injured in the lightning strike, according to Deputy Fire Chief Timothy C. Heiser. The only other damage reported was a hole the size of a man’s fist punched through the roof of a building nearby. The building’s occupants, located on 2001 S. Andrews Ave, were frightened by a loud crack and then falling debris from the roof at about 2 pm last Friday.

Just last June, a lightning strike hit the Fort Lauerdale-Hollywood International Airport leaving a Delta Airlines plane damaged. Two others were slightly injured as they were part of a cleaning crew on the Delta Airlines Boeing 757.

As a result of the said incident, nearly 41 scheduled departures were delayed as well as eleven flights delayed for arrival. Aside from the Fort Lauerdale Airport, nearby Miami International Airport also had delays.

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