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Florida's Climate and Weather

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Thunderstorms, Lightning & Tornadoes
Lightning
Public domain photo by Darren Brown.

Florida is the thunderstorm capital of the United States. The "lightning belt" in Florida is an area from between Orlando and Tampa to south along the west coast to Fort Myers and east to Lake Okeechobee.

Thunderstorms are attributed to hot, wet air close to the ground combined with an unstable atmosphere. Often the resulting thunderstorms occur during afternoons — June through September — and can be as brief as a few minutes or as long as a couple of hours, but seldom longer.

Florida's lightning frequently packs a stronger charge than average — more than 45,000 amperes. Some researchers believe that Florida lightning is particularly powerful because of the tall, more highly charged storm-cloud formations. Lightning is the state's leading cause of weather-related death, and the state has the distinction of having the nation's worst record of deaths by lightning.

The months of April, May and the summer months are considered peak periods for tornadoes in Florida. Although tornadoes can surpass hurricanes in deadly force, fortunately many of Florida's tornadoes are the weaker waterspout-type of storm. The more severe tornadoes occur mainly in the Florida Panhandle during February and March.

A tornado is more often seen in muggy weather when large thunderstorms are brewing. Often rain, hail and flashes of lightning may precede a tornado.

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