WEEKI WACHEE — It looked like a scene from a horror movie.
A hot dog dangling above a power line suddenly exploded with a bright blue electric arc from the force of 7,500 volts of electricity. A few moments later, the piece of meat was nothing but smoldering cinder.
The dramatic demonstration came courtesy of Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative safety specialists Allen Moore and David Wardwell, whose workshop on high-voltage safety drew an attentive crowd Saturday at the annual Hernando County Hurricane and Safety Expo.
Their advice was simple: Stay far away from downed power lines after a storm.
"There are typically more deaths after a hurricane than during one," Wardwell said afterward. "People often think a power line that's down is dead, but they're often not. Touching one can cost you your life."
The free expo, sponsored by Hernando County Emergency Management and held at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, drew a large crowd that spent the day visiting exhibits and listening to experts from the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Red Cross and other government agencies.
Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the event had a lighthearted tone. Visitors were treated to free hot dogs and bottled water. Kids had face-painting booths and craft tables to keep them busy.
"We want people to go away from here being smarter about protecting themselves and their families during an emergency," Lt. Jim Powers of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said. "Having an informed public helps us do our jobs better."
For Hal Myers, who moved to Spring Hill from Indiana two years ago, the expo offered a lot of valuable information on a weather event he has yet to experience.
"All of this is new to us," Myers said as he and his wife, Marie, looked over samples of hurricane shutters at a vendor's booth. "We've watched a lot of hurricanes on the news, and it looks like pretty rough going if you don't have your act together.
"I thought it might be good for us to come down and find out what we need to do so that we don't end up being victims."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.