• New 'electrifying' design at OIA terminal protects passengers from lightning

    By: Kelly Healey


    ORLANDO, Fla. - In Orlando, strong storms bring dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

    Calm weather and blue skies describe a typical January day in Central Florida. But that is a far cry from the stormy weather that hits the area in July.


    Developers of a new terminal at Orlando International Airport created lightning protection designs to keep the new terminal and its occupants safe during the stormy weather.

    Certified meteorologist George Waldenberger spoke with lightning protection expert Kenneth Friend about Terminal C at OIA.


    “We completed this project six months ago,” Friend said. “If a lightning strike is to hit in the area, we force it to hit the lightning rods on top of the building and give it a direct easy path into the ground, so it doesn't enter the building.”


    In 2018, Orange County had an average of 15 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per square kilometer, which is an area roughly the size of the site of the airport terminal, and it’s the second most of any county in the nation, according to data from the Vaisala Group.


    Seminole County ranked as the No.1 county in the nation. In 2018, Seminole County had roughly 17 times more lightning strikes per square kilometer than many counties in Ohio and New York, the data said.

    “It'd just strike the rod, and then it would hit one of the down conductors that we have inside the building, and it would come down inside the building and go down to the grounding electrode,” Friend said.


    “This goes down about three feet to a grounding electrode, which drives 30 feet down,” Friend said.


    That directs the lightning charge below ground level, where it quickly and safely dissipates, keeping everything inside and underneath the protected structures safe.


    “You're totally 100% safe as long your underneath the building or the zone of the air terminal,” Friend said.


    There are about 500 lightning rods or air terminals spaced every 20 to 25 feet.


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