Year’s hottest holiday lights are sold out in Bay area – and causing concern

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s the hottest holiday must-have this year, so hot in fact that many of these dazzling decorations are sold out at Tampa Bay area stores.  Christmas has certainly gone high-tech. Laser light displays are more popular than ever.

Palm Harbor homeowner Jesse Cooper loves the laser look, and apparently so does everyone else. “Everybody was scouring Big Lots for these. I’m not even kidding you,” Jesse said.

He even showed up early one day to a local store to buy all the lights he could before the retailer was out-of-stock. “People were crawling over each other to get these lights,” Jesse tells News Channel 8. He says that he and his husband, Scott, couldn’t believe how popular the decoration item is this year. The former Brooklyn-based couple just moved to the Bay area and can’t wait to celebrate their first Christmas in Florida.

Their home is decked out with gorgeous, mesmerizing lights attracting a steady stream of passers-by. The visitors even garnered the attention of their pups, Ozzy and Humphrey, who stare curiously out the window as the crowds drive past. It makes both Jessie and Scott chuckle a bit. “The amount of people stopping by our house to look! If we had a nickel for every time,” Jesse told us.

But, there is one decoration detail that has the couple concerned this year, and it’s high in the sky above their home – flights over St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. That’s because the lasers can be seen thousands of feet in the air. “When your hear about these lasers and see the commercials on TV, you think that must be amped up, but it’s not. It really does shoot that far,” Jesse said.

It’s so far and so high in the air that pilots with American Airlines have come across Christmas lights at 13,000 feet.  It happened recently at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, and it’s certainly jarring for pilots.

They are exposed to a flash of blinding light so disruptive that, they maintain, it can cause a massive malfunction. “You need to be thinking of pilots and passengers about you,” said retired Captain John Cox who is now the CEO and president of Safety Operating Systems in St. Petersburg. The retired pilot has been flying the globe for nearly five decades and currently runs a successful aviation safety consulting business.

He advises homeowners to keep the lasers on your house and out of airspace since the light beam is more powerful than you think. It could save lives in the sky. “The problem with the power is that the laser can burn the retina of the pilot and cause blindness, sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent,” the longtime pilot said.

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