Lightning in Pensacola, FL

I wanted to share this because my little sister recently moved to Pensacola for flight training, and I always worry for her! She’s a strong and capable person, but she’s so far away and I can’t help but think about her wellbeing.

On January 2 of this year, an extremely intense bolt of lightning struck the road right in front of a driver, who recorded the incident on this phone. As you can see in the brief video, the strike had the potential of causing very serious harm to anyone or anything in its path. Luckily, no one was hurt by this bolt in particular.

As we have discussed several times in class, Florida is subject to frequent tropical storms, especially during the hurricane season months. These months generally include Spring through mid-Fall; January does not fall into this category of “hurricane season months,” or what we in Virginia would except to be thunderstorm season. So why was there such a hazardous lightning bolt making contact in Pensacola in the off-season?

This article documents a particularly strong wind storm that had gone through Pensacola the previous day. I could surmise that the lightning bolt was connected to this event. Strong wind storms like this one are by no means restricted to a defined seasonality. Of course, we can talk about the likelihood of a storm’s occurrence falling into a certain time frame, that being when the air and surrounding water sources are warmer and more likely to create low pressure systems with lifting, stable, wet air. But in reality, serious storms can occur at any point in the year, especially in areas like Pensacola, where the air is generally humid and warm all year long. According to this article an elementary school was damaged, but no injuries were reported. This incident provokes certain questions of mitigation and social response: no one was hurt, which implies some kind of evasive action (although the article doesn’t specify that any were taken), yet the school was damaged, begging the question of why it hadn’t been built to be more sturdy? An elementary school is a public structure where the entire community has an intimate investment, and an area like Pensacola should already be well-accustomed to severe wind storms.