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18 Cape parks get lightning detection systems

By Staff | Feb 2, 2016

By JIM LINETTE

jlinette@breezenewspapers.com

When city adult and youth sports leagues began play this week around town, the participants and spectators were safer from severe weather than before.

Crews completed installation of the WeatherBug Lightning Alerting System by Earth Networks at 18 city parks last month. It’s the same system installed by Lee County government and the Lee School District. The budgeted expenditure was $118,000.

“It was our top priority, but we didn’t have the funds available until the Fire Service Assessment went through,” said Parks & Recreation Superintendent Art Avellino. “The process took several months, but we got them finished just before the holidays. We’ve been testing the system at all the parks making sure they are working properly and today (Monday) all leagues have been advised that they are live for the first time.”

The system detects lightning strikes up to 10 miles away. Once detected, the system sounds a 15-second horn blast along with strobe lights, the signal for everyone to seek shelter. Activity is stopped for at least 30 minutes after the last lightning strike is detected. Strobe lights around the park continue to flash during the countdown. When it is safe to resume activities, the system sounds three short horn blasts.

“It’s for the safety of the participants,” said Avellino. “Any night we will have 3,000 people out here (Cape Coral Sports Complex). It used to be people would watch the weather on their phones and spread the word that weather was coming, but now it is clear cut. The system is specific for each park. If there is lightning out at Northwest Sports Complex that detector goes off, but not at other parks.”

People can monitor the WeatherBug system on their phones. They can watch the alert status and the 30-minute countdown at any park on the city’s online link to the system at www.capecoral.net/weatherbug.

The system will be activated at athletic parks only during scheduled games while the neighborhood parks are activated daily from dawn till dark.

“There were volunteers at the youth league parks monitoring the weather with thousands of lives in their hands,” said Avellino. “They won’t have that burden on their shoulders now.”

One WeatherBug system protects both Pelican Soccer Complex and Pelican Baseball Complex. The system was installed at the soccer complex when the Jan. 9 tornado tore through Southwest Cape Coral, damaging the fences, bleachers, dugouts and electrical system at the baseball complex. No damage was done to the soccer complex on the opposite side of Pelican Boulevard.

“We should be done with the fences soon and the electric should be finished next week,” said Avellino. “The park should be back open by the end of February.”

The other parks now protected by the WeatherBug system include: Burton Memorial Park; Caloosa Football; Jason Verdow Park; Koza-Saladino Park; Storms Football Complex; Cape Coral Sports Complex; Northwest Softball Complex; Joe Stonis Park; Strausser/BMX Park; Jim Jeffers Park; Sun Splash Waterpark; Coral Oaks Golf Course; Yacht Club Community Park; Four Freedoms Park; Jaycee Park; and Bill Austen Youth Center.