Deadly Wabasso Lightning Storm
September 20, 2003

On September 20th 2003, a 46 year old female physical education teacher was killed by a bolt of lightning while on a soccer complex west of Wabasso in Indian River County.

map of east central Florida showing wabasso

Many people near the victim were knocked to the ground by the bolt, and about 20 people were treated by emergency personnel. Two children and two other adults were transported to a local hospital.

This was an unusual event in that the fatality occurred just before 11 am, and there had been no lightning activity in the area prior to the fatal strike. Deep easterly wind had set up across the area, and a few rapidly developing rain showers moved on shore. There was just enough vertical development to produce a minimal thunderstorm. The storm that crossed Indian River County produced only 4 or 5 cloud-to-ground strikes. It appears that the first strike to occur hit the victim.

A more typical wet season late afternoon Florida thunderstorm can produce hundreds of cloud-to-ground strikes. Historically most lightning fatalities in Florida occur in June, July, August and September with an average of 10 fatalities a year.

lightning for entire event
Depiction of total lightning strikes in the area between 10:30 and 11:00 am.  Click for large size.

radar image overlaid with lightning strikes
Loop from 10:25 to 11:11 am showing radar echoes overlaid with lightning.  Click for large size.

Posted September 22, 2003
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