Volleys of afternoon thunderstorms rocked South Florida the past several days, as punctual as the afternoon sea breeze and a harbinger of one of the state's most dangerous times of year.
The rainy season that doesn't officially begin until May 15 in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, comes with the kind of life-threatening lightning, tornadoes and flooding that have highlighted the area's weather since Friday.
Underscoring the atmospheric mayhem was an unusual bolt of lightning up to 10 times stronger than a typical flash that was caught on video by Boynton Beach resident Erica Hite on Sunday.
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The so-called continuous current, or positive lighting, which was identified by the National Weather Service in Miami after seeing the video, hit outside Hite's apartment when she was taking video to show her family how bad the weather was.
The 12-second clip of the blinding strike that sounded like firecrackers going of was played on MSNBC's Morning Joe and repeatedly on The Weather Channel. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, positive lightning originates in the upper reaches of a cloud's anvil and make up less than 5 percent of all strikes.
"It was crazy. Very scary, very loud," Hite said. "It was just the right place at the right time. I could probably never in my life get something like that again."
Hite said the strike damaged a concrete dumpster enclosure.
Amazing#lightning strike video in#BoyntonBeach this afternoon. Be safe out there Courtesy Erica Hitepic.twitter.com/6wArFClkIt— Steve Weagle (@SteveWeagleWPTV)May 5, 2019
Weather-related damage on Friday included the loss of half a horse stable roof in Loxahatchee when a weak tornado touched down. The EF-0 with 70-mph winds was confirmed by an NWS survey team. No people or animals were injured, according to the survey team.
And up to 300 lightning bolts as hot as the sun cracked the sky in West Palm Beach between 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday, leading to the cancellation of the Tears for Fears show at SunFest to the dismay and ire of fans. Country music star Keith Urban's flight was diverted from PBIA to Miami because of heavy rains, winds and lightning on Sunday, but somehow his band hit the stage just after 9 p.m.
Meteorologist Larry Kelly said the Miami office of the NWS was in constant contact with SunFest or police officials to give them weather updates, but didn't make any decisions as far as far as asking people to seek shelter or canceling shows.
While Florida's unique sea breeze-initiated thunderstorms are the norm for summer as daytime heating lures in winds from both coasts, the recent storms also had an upper-level southwest flow that pushed them to pile up along the coast.
Rain totals Sunday were highest in Miami-Dade County, but areas in Boynton Beach and Jupiter received more than 2 inches, with Lake Worth getting 1.95 inches.
The official measure at Palm Beach International Airport was 0.91 inches.
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Miami's National Weather Service office decided last year to set standard rainy season dates beginning May 15 and ending Oct. 15. South Florida gets an average of 70 percent of its rain during the wet season.
"It's just like hurricane season starting June 1," Kelly said. "Sometimes you get storms before."
Before the dates became standard, the rainy season was determined by looking at dew point temperatures, sea surface temperatures and an established pattern of rainfall typical to the rainy season for at least three consecutive days.
The National Weather Service in Melbourne still does it the old fashioned way.
"We are getting to the point where everything switches to the afternoon thunderstorms and basically rain every day," said meteorologist Krizia Negron, who works in the Melbourne NWS office. "We are getting close to it for sure."