In wake of the severe weather season, I felt that touching base on thunderstorm and lightning safety would be an important topic to discuss. Most of us know the infamous saying “When thunder roars, go indoors”, but what about the reason behind it? Let’s take a look below.
All thunderstorms are dangerous, and all thunderstorms produce lightning to some degree. Over the past thirty years, lightning fatalities have decreased, but lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. On average, fifty one people are struck by lightning in the United States alone. So what else comes with a thunderstorm warned system? If you said a tornado, high winds, hail, and flash flooding, you are correct. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities (more than 140 annually) than any other thunderstorm associated hazard. Being prepared before a severe storm, can lessen the amount of injuries and fatalities caused by storm hazards. Let’s take a look at some ways to prepare yourself.
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following: make an emergency kit ( This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours), remove any dead or rotting trees and tree branches that could fall and cause damage, cancel any outdoor activities, secure outside objects that could blow away with high winds, get inside of a building (in case you get caught in the storm outside, seek shelter in an automobile that is away from any trees that could fall, and keep the windows up), and unplug any electronics before the storm hits.
If you find yourself outside with little time to seek shelter, you may seek shelter in a low area such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash flooding.
What are some of the things that you should do during a storm? Be sure to have a weather radio to receive any alerts and updates, avoid contact with any electronic that may be plugged in, including a corded phone, be sure to turn off any air conditioning unit to reduce any power surges from lighting that could cause damage, do not wash hands or take a shower during a storm bathroom plumbing fixtures can conduct electricity, stay away from windows, doors, and off of porches, avoid objects that can mimic a natural lightning rod (lightning tends to hit the tallest object first, before traveling towards the ground), avoid contact with anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles, If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon as possible. The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:
Breathing – if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Heartbeat – if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
Pulse – if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing and eyesight.
After the storm passes remember to:
Never drive through a flooded roadway. Turn around, don’t drown!
Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.
Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information or instructions, as access to roads or some parts of the community may be blocked.
Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or those with access or functional needs.
Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
Watch your animals closely. Keep them under your direct control.
To end this article, here are some facts about thunderstorms and lightning. Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines. Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development. About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe – one that produces hail at least an inch or larger in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher or produces a tornado. Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away from thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction. Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 but could be reduced even further by following safety precautions. Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately. Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a thunderstorm hazard: Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information. Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
Remember, when thunder roars, go indoors!