Winter Park upgrades to state-of-the-art lightning detection system

People visiting Winter Park's Ward Park and, here, at MLK Park may wonder about the strange-looking antennae mounted atop some of the buildings there. They're part of the new ThorGuard TG360 warning system, letting people know when dangerous lightning is coming their way.

When there's bad weather heading to Winter Park, residents and visitors may hear a loud siren from the loudspeakers and see flashing strobe lights. John Clark, the city’s recreation and family service manager, said it was a new upgrade to a system the city already had in-place. "We've had the system for years now. Some of the parts were getting a little older, starting to go. So, we had to replace them, anyway."

The TG360 system is ThorGuard’s newest, most advanced lightning detection system. The unit predicts nearby lightning by measuring the static electricity in the atmosphere. By monitoring how much static energy is building and changing, the device predicts lightning strikes before they happen. Clark said there were also signs to inform visitors. "We do have signage in the park about ThorGuard that gives them more information about the system, as well as how it works and what they're listening for."

The system has a free mobile app called Thor Alert that lets users know when there's bad weather coming. The warnings cover an area that encompasses MLK Park, Ward Park, and the surrounding sports facilities. Clark said their users appreciated the added safety. "Our different leagues and field renters can download the app and closely track it. We've gotten comments that they do love it, it allows them to be more up-to-date on what's going on."

Funding for the upgrade came from the city's capital improvements, and the annual subscription fee will be included in the parks budget. Winter Park Asst. Comms Director Craig O’Neil said they were happy to provide this service for the community. "It protects them from lightning, a very dangerous thing to be considered in Florida, especially. So we're really happy to have this improvement and upgrade in the system to keep our residents and visitors safe."