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Sanibel adds safety system to facilities to warn of lightning

By Staff | Jun 18, 2009

The city of Sanibel announced last week that a new lightning prediction system has been installed at the recreation center, tennis courts, ball fields and pavilion school complex and at Sanibel Community Park on Periwinkle Way.
The system signals the danger of nearby lightning with strobe lights. If a strobe light flashes, all surrounding outdoor areas must be cleared immediately. The lights are located at the different sites in areas that can be easily seen by facility users. It is only safe to return once a strobe light has stopped flashing.
The ThorGuard Lightning Prediction System, manufactured in South Florida since 1976, reads the activity within the electrostatic field through a proprietary program developed after hundreds of hours of thunderstorm monitoring and will predict the probability of a lightning strike within a predetermined area of concern.
According to the company’s Web site, the program can also project the potential for deadly “bolts out of the blue,” which are lightning strikes that seem to come from nowhere and cause a high percentage of fatalities.
“If you take a look around the globe, the state of Florida is in the top five for lightning fatalities,” said Judie Zimomra, city manager for Sanibel. “This is truly a safety issue here.”
Zimomra explained that the request to add a lightning prediction system to recreational facilities came from a group of concerned parents, who indicated that such systems are considered “almost standard” throughout sports facilities in Southwest Florida.
Last month, the city council approved adding the system to Sanibel Community Park at a cost of $8,980 after previously approving the system to be installed at the rec center, tennis courts, ball fields and pavilion school complex. The cost to install the system there was $24,100, which was approved in April.
“When you talk about all of the metal structures and pools at those facilities, we all agree that our top priority is to make sure that people in this community are safe,” Zimomra said.
The ThorGuard Lightning Prediction System is currently used by cities, government agencies and private corporations around the world, including the United States Golf Association, ABC Television Sports, Miami-Dade County Police Department, Delta Airlines, Penn State University, United States Navy, National Guard and U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Signs explaining the system’s use are being placed in visible areas at each facility. Visitors will note that there are “safe places to seek for shelter” and “unsafe places to avoid” when the system has been activated due to the threat of lightning. Review the designated areas in advance and follow the recommended procedures.
For more information or any questions, contact the Sanibel Recreation Center, located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road, at 472-0345 or visit the Web site at: www.mysanibel.com.