Storms assault South Florida with lightning, funnel clouds and hail


South Florida’s stretch of riotous weather continued its assault Monday, striking down a man in Margate with the flash bang of lightning, dropping a funnel cloud along Southern Blvd., and drenching a suburban Lake Worth neighborhood with nearly 3.5 inches of rain in an hour.

Provoked by an upper-level twist of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico and colliding sea breezes unique to the Sunshine State, Monday’s storms also shot lightning through the roof of a 3-story building in Jupiter. The blast punched a large hole through the roof and started a blaze that firefighters kept contained to the attic.

“I don’t remember a year like this,” said Scott Lewis, who owns a West Palm Beach-based landscaping company and cautions employees to seek shelter when they hear thunder. “When it’s wet in the morning you have to wait for it to dry out to be safe to climb and then by 2 p.m. it’s blasting us.”

RELATED: Clearing up the confusion of weather warnings 

The atmospheric outbursts have filled water storage areas across South Florida to overflow, and proven dangerous if caught outside.

Margate Fire Chief Dan Booker said a man was injured during a lightning strike Monday at about 11:45 a.m. at a Broward County condominium complex north of W. Atlantic Blvd. and west of U.S. 441. Booker said no one saw the man hit directly by the lightning, but just after it struck he was seen on the ground.

When paramedics arrived, the man was in cardiac arrest. He was taken to Broward Health North, where he was in serious condition Monday afternoon, Booker said. Typically, the immediate cause of death from a lightning strike is cardiac arrest.

“They were life threatening injuries,” he said. “Somebody heard the lightning and saw it, but not a direct strike.”

WEATHER LOVERS: Be in the know, sign up for our weekly weather newsletter.

Booker said the man was a landscaper. The National Weather Service in Miami said the injured man was 55-years-old and was carrying a weeding device when he was struck, not that the machine would have affected the lightning strike. While metal is a good conductor of electricity, lightning is not attracted to metal. Instead, it tends to hit taller objects, which is why standing next to a tree is a bad idea during a storm.

In May, Lake Worth resident Maria Francisco Pascual, 53, was killed by lightning when she was working in a field at C.W. Hendrix Farm along Loxahatchee Road in northern Broward County. A month earlier, Kourtney Lambert, 23, was killed when lightning struck a tree near her at the Woodpecker Mud Bog north of Lake City.

Meteorologists warn that lightning can strike from 10 miles away, meaning sunny skies when a storm is imminent are still dangerous. The rule of thumb is if thunder can be heard, go inside or find another shelter such as a hard-topped car with the windows rolled up.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“We’re a little cooler aloft, which allows some storms to get stronger,” said Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “You can always get hail formation with strong thunderstorms.”

A person trained by the NWS to spot and report severe weather called the Miami office at about noon Monday, noting dime-size hail at Southern Blvd. and Military Trail. At about 1 p.m. a trained spotter reported a funnel cloud at Southern Blvd. and Florida’s Turnpike.

A weather gauge near Jog Road and Hypoluxo road measured 3.49 inches of rain between 12:19 p.m. and 1:19 p.m. Monday.

“We had a storm set up over the area and three inches of rain fell pretty quickly,” Kelly said. “It just didn’t move much.”

In Jupiter, a townhome in the Abacoa neighborhood has a 4-by-4 foot hole in its roof after it was struck by lightning in the afternoon. A fire from the lightning was contained to one side of the townhouse because of a concrete wall separating the two homes, authorities said. It didn’t enter into the residences.

Neighbors in the area said they heard the lightning strike and felt it shake their house.

“I heard this hellacious boom and thought, ‘Man, that was close,” Tim Alban, a neighbor, said. “I didn’t think anything was hit until I saw the fire trucks come.”

There’s little change in the weather pattern in the near future, with thunderstorms in the daily forecast through the weekend.

VIDEO: Storms whip up waterspouts and hail in Florida Keys

But Kelly said the storms may weaken as a ridge of high pressure sets up over the southeast. A layer of Saharan air drifting west could hit Florida on Friday, which would dry out the air and reduce showers.

“We’re also monitoring a back door cold front,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

And then there is a disturbance in the southwestern Caribbean that the National Hurricane Center is giving a 20 percent chance of developing into something tropical over the next five days. The area, which was identified Monday, is associated with a tropical wave over northwestern Venezuela.

If the showers and thunderstorms strengthen to a tropical storm, it would be named Beryl.

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on Facebook Instagram and Twitter .

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer McKenna Ross contributed to this report.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Weather

Help for algae issue: Lake O reservoir wins U.S. Senate approval
Help for algae issue: Lake O reservoir wins U.S. Senate approval

A reservoir to hold Lake Okeechobee overflow and spare northern estuaries from harmful discharges won approval in the U.S. Senate this week with the passage of a sweeping water act. It was the final step for the legislation, known as America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, before heading to President Trump’s desk for signature. The...
Red tide tests show lower concentrations in Palm Beach County
Red tide tests show lower concentrations in Palm Beach County

New test results for Karenia Brevis in Palm Beach County show lower concentrations from the Palm Beach Inlet to Boca Raton. The results, released Wednesday, were from samples taken Tuesday, according to the state’s red tide status map. All of the samples showed low levels of the algae that shut down beaches last week and forced lifeguards to...
Hurricane Michael: Videos, photos show devastation along Florida Panhandle
Hurricane Michael: Videos, photos show devastation along Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael battered Florida's Panhandle on Wednesday, bringing with it destructive 155 mph winds and life-threatening storm surge. Its winds ripped apart homes, and feet of storm surge left homes underwater. Photos and video from the Panama City area show the path of destruction left behind by the near-Category 5 storm. >> Read...
Hurricane Michael: Trump likely to visit Florida, Georgia next week to survey storm damage
Hurricane Michael: Trump likely to visit Florida, Georgia next week to survey storm damage

President Donald Trump is likely to visit storm-ravaged areas of Florida and Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael early next week, White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday. The president spoke with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey during the flight to receive updates on the storm, which barreled into...
Historic Hurricane Michael: How it stacks up to other U.S., Florida storms
Historic Hurricane Michael: How it stacks up to other U.S., Florida storms

Even as the storm still rages, Hurricane Michael is already making its mark on history. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with winds of 155 miles per hour. A hurricane reaches Category 5 status when winds reach 157 miles per hour. Only a few storms have made landfall in the United States stronger...
More Stories