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Lightning strike injures 8 people on Clearwater Beach

At least one person is reportedly suffering from life-threatening injuries.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — One person was struck by lightning on Clearwater Beach as a thunderstorm rolled through.

The victim, a man in his 40s, went into cardiac arrest and is in critical condition, according to the Clearwater Police Department. Seven other people near the man were injured, the agency added.

It happened around 12:42 p.m. Sunday on the beach near Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, located at 7 Rockaway St.

The man is said to have life-threatening injuries.

Credit: 10Weather
A lightning bolt hit Clearwater Beach around 12:45 p.m. Sunday, injuring eight people, according to Clearwater Fire Rescue.

Four people, including the man, were taken to Morton Plant Hospital for treatment, Clearwater police said. Another was taken to Tampa General Hospital for burns and three more refused treatment.

Clearwater Beach lifeguards left their towers around 12:30 p.m. because of the approaching storm, police said. 

Sandy Harper noticed clouds darkening overhead but to her and everyone else on the beach, it seemed as though they were blowing away from shore. 

"As soon as I said that, there was a strike," Harper said. 

It was her cue to go, and lifeguards followed suit to get everyone out of the water and away from the beach. Harper said she heard the thunder -- and saw the vivid flash, believed to be the injury-causing strike -- as she and others headed for the parking lot.

Harper looked out the window of her friend's hotel room and saw the ambulances and fire trucks responding to victims. All the while, people still hung out at the beach. 

Credit: Sandy Harper

"People need to pay more attention," Harper said. "There were a lot of people still in the water after the first strike."

There are several types of lightning that could injure or kill a person. Florida State University details the following:

  • Direct Strike: A bolt of lightning strikes you directly, carrying 30,000 amps, 100-million volts, and temperature potential of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, very few people survive a direct strike.
  • Contact Voltage / Conduction: You are touching an object which is struck by lightning. Examples include direct contact with building surfaces, towers, poles, vehicle surfaces, wiring, and plumbing.
  • Side Flash: You are struck by a bolt of lightning that arcs to you from an object that was struck, creating a path of least resistance.
  • Step Voltage / Ground Streamers: Lightning strikes within 100 feet of you and the voltage jumps across the ground, wet pavement, pools of water, or other electrical pathways to touch you as well.

Watch: Be weather aware: Lightning safety

Even during a sunny day, if you hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning. The National Weather Service uses the phrase: "When thunder roars, go indoors!"

Related: Lightning safety tips: Things to know if you're caught in a thunderstorm

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