Florida leads the country in lightning deaths in 2019.

The hotter it gets, the more likely a thunderstorm will pop up and spoil your day.

But these summer storms can do more than cast a shadow over fun. Most come with lightning, and although the chances of getting struck are slim, they are real.

Florida is the lightning capital of the world, with three fatal strikes already this year. That's more than any other state, a statistic that's held true for years.

Boaters and beachgoers in Northwest Florida may have a tough time staying safe. At this time of year, storms can come up quickly and pose a lightning risk for miles in any direction, both before and after the storm.

"We start clearing the beach at 12 miles," Okaloosa Beach Safety Division Chief Rich Huffnagle said. "Once you go under 10 miles, we call a red alert. It's very possible at that point."

He said some beachgoers will run for cover while others will stand their ground.

"When it's five or six miles away, they won't even seek shelter," he said. "That's where the false sense of security is. Anytime they are told there is lightning in the area, they should seek shelter immediately."

In 2017 a man camping near Baker was struck and killed. The year before that, a 22-year-old beach attendant died after being struck by lightning on Okaloosa Island. In 2015, 18 Army Ranger students were hospitalized after a storm produced more than 350 strikes in two hours.

Huffnagle was in a lifeguard tower in 2009 when lightning from a storm in Niceville struck. it set the tower on fire and sent another guard into cardiac arrest.

Although the popular mantra advises people to take shelter if they hear thunder, Huffnagle said even that may not protect you. The storm that produced the lightning bolt that struck them was more than 10 miles away and they hadn't heard thunder for more than 30 minutes.

"Pay attention to the weather," he said, adding that there are a number of apps people can get on their phones to alert them of danger.

If a storm does roll in while you're on a boat, in the woods or on a beach far from shelter, make yourself as small as possible and get close to the ground.

Being in a boat won't protect you. Head for shore and shelter when at all possible. 

"We always tell people to watch so they don't get caught in that kind of situation," National Weather Service meteorologist Da'Vel Johnson said. "Being in a boat is like being in an open field. It's one of the worst places possible."