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article imageIs It Time to Worry? Lightning Kills a Man Beneath Cloudless Sky

By Tea Lulic     Jun 22, 2007 in Science
A Dade landscaper's life ended suddenly on Thursday after being struck by an unusual type of lightning - it is hot, strong, lasts longer and strikes from clear skies. Could it be that nature is becoming wilder?
Picture a perfect day. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and there are no clouds. Then picture a powerful bolt of lightning striking right from the clear sky and killing a person standing beside you. It might be something you have seen in movies but you might have never thought it could actually happen. Well, it did.
David Canales, 41, of West-Miami Dade, was working when the bolt hit. At first, the bolt seared a tree, then traveled and hit Canales. The phenomenon has been called a "bolt from the blue" or "dry lightning" by meteorologists. Canales was later pronounced dead at South Miami Hospital.
Dan Dixon, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Miami, told the news that when Canales was hit, a typical afternoon storm was forming but nowhere near the area where he worked.
According to the data gathered by the weather service, the lightning activity picked up north of Pinecrest shortly before 1 pm. Then a storm passed through Coral Gables.
''Most lightning will come from the base of a thunderstorm, inside that rain-shaft area,'' Dixon explained. ``But occasionally, what we call a bolt from the blue comes out of a thunderstorm still several miles away.''
These types of bolts are usually deadlier and form differently.
Most lightning bolts are negatively charged, but these ones are positively charged and carry as much as 10 times the current. They're also hotter and last longer. Moreover, these bolts usually travel horizontally away from the storm and reach farther than ordinary lightning.
''My wife said the sky was blue, but the lightning bolt was the most horrible sound she had heard in her life,'' said Clemente Vazquez-Bello, owner of the home where Canales and two workers had come to do landscaping.
His wife then ran outside and when she saw what happened dialed 911.
Vazquez-Bello said Canales was ''a wonderful human being'' and a dependable hard worker.
''We feel terrible about this,'' said Vazquez-Bello, a Miami attorney.
On another note, if you plan to protect yourself from this type of bolt, it will be very difficult.
''They are very unpredictable and very dangerous. We urge people to stay indoors even if you hear thunder only faintly in the distance,'' Dixon said. ``If you're close enough to hear thunder, you're close enough to be struck by lightning.''
This is not the first time South Florida had cases of "bolts from the blue." In august of 1988 a couple standing on a Fort Lauderdale beach got struck by a bolt. Witnesses stated that the sky was cloudless.
More research suggests that these bolts can travel up to 25 miles away from its original source - the back of a storm cloud.
More about Lightning, Clear sky, Death