Happy 4th of July! On Thursday I traveled to Titusville, Florida. I went to meet with the mother and brother of a man who was killed by lightning on July 4, 1996. Tom Daniel was 32 years old. He’s been gone for 13 years today. For his family it seems like yesterday.  Unlike some victims of lightning, Tom wasn’t pushing his luck. He wasn’t swimming in a thunderstorm, playing golf when he shouldn’t have, or standing under a tree to escape the rain. Tom Daniel simply parked his car, stepped out and waved to his family.  A single blot of lightning stuck from a dying anvil cloud several miles away. He was gone in a flash.

Last night on the 11pm news, we aired the story of Tom and what his family has suffered through. If you missed the story, let me lay out some hard facts. Lightning kills more people in Florida most years than all the other weather events combined.  We spend hours preparing you for hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. But you don’t hear enough about the real killer. If you can see the lighting approaching it’s time to take cover. If you can hear thunder, you need to seek shelter immediately. Remember, like in the case of Tom Daniel, more people are killed by approaching and retreating storms than by storms that are right on top of them.  Use the 30-30 rule to decide when it’s time to venture back outdoors.

Anytime lighting is a threat you can track it with the lightning tracker on JustWeather.com

Talking to the mother and brother of Tom Daniel was extremely tough and touching. They are good, hard working, salt of the earth people. They are a tight family. That lightning bolt tore a hole in that family that can never be repaired. Lee Daniel said, “Tell people it happens. When it happens to you there isn’t a chance to say goodbye.” Please take their words to heart. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Dont take chances with lightning. It’s the number one weather killer in Central Florida.

Rain tonight: As I’m writing the east coast sea breeze is just starting to kick up showers in Orange Co. I believe we’ll get more of them until about 8:30 or so… then the fireworks can take off. Race time in Daytona is 7:30. My best bet is the race gets to start, but will have a rain threat by 9. If they can run until 10 p.m. I think the rain will have missed the track. Gentlemen start your engines!

The 4th of July always makes me remember the celebrations of days gone by. I miss the 4th of July in Greenbrier, Tennessee. I haven’t made the holiday there since the 80s. Red, White and Boom was always fun in Columbus, Ohio… although it wasn’t always on the 4th. And once upon a time, a looooong time ago, I asked Mitra to marry me on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland on the 4th of July.

Hope you and your family have a peaceful 4th.