Z-z-z-z-z-zit, snap! Boom! Yikes! That was close. Several weeks ago a violent storm zapped the power and plunged us into darkness for two or three hours. There has been a lot of electricity in the air lately. Some of it was lightning compliments of Mother Nature—as comedian George Carlin said, “electricity is just organized lightning”—and  some of it was fireworks celebrating the birthday of America. There is more to come.

            Sunday is Bastille Day, or as the French say “Vive le 14 Juillet!”  It is celebrated in much the same way Americans fete July Fourth with fireworks and parades. The oldest and largest military parade in Western Europe begins near the Arc de Triomphe and marches down the Champs-Elysees. In addition, The French have a unique tradition of opening firehouses to the public for demonstrations and dancing on July 13 and 14. Although Bastille Day isn’t a birthday bash—the United States is the only country with an actual birthday—it does mark the beginning of the French Revolution with the assault on the Bastille in 1789.

            I don’t know of any public July 14 festivals in Northeast Florida, but French communities in many U.S. cities celebrate Bastille Day. Among them are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and New York City. St. Louis, Mo. holds a festival in the former French village of Carondelet, where they reenact the beheading of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

 Philadelphia, PA, stages the storming of the Bastille with Marie Antoinette tossing Tastykakes to the militia. Antoinette is known for the callous cake phrase, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” meaning: If the people have no bread, let them eat cake. The word cake comes from the flour and water paste that built up inside ovens when baking bread. Bakers scraped the “cake” off to give to beggars.

Florida is known as the lightning capital of the U.S., so residents can expect astonishing areal light displays even when there are no fireworks. Beware, lightning is second only to floods as a weather-related killer. Each square mile of Central Florida is struck 40 times a year, injuring an average of 600 people, killing about 60. Most lightning-related deaths and injuries occur during the summer when folks are enjoying outdoor activities, such as swimming, fishing, jogging, camping and golf.

            Top golfer Lee Trevino offered this humorous advice (albeit not the best) when he said: “if you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”

When you see lightning, follow the 30-30 rule and count the time until you hear thunder. If it’s 30 seconds or less a storm is within six miles, so seek shelter in a building or car with a metal roof. Avoid trees, water and metal fences which are frequent lightning targets. And as you run for cover keep in mind this observation by humorist Willie Tyler: “The reason lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn’t there the second time.”