Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety
Thunderstorms and Lightning
Some thunderstorms can be
seen approaching, while others hit without warning. It is important to learn and
recognize the danger signs and to plan ahead.
Learn the thunderstorm
- Dark, towering, or
- Distant lightning
Have disaster supplies on
- Flashlight with extra
battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- First aid kit and
- Emergency food and
- Non-electric can opener
- Essential medicines
- Cash and credit cards
- Sturdy shoes
Check for hazards in the
Dead or rotting trees and branches can fall during a severe thunderstorm
and cause injury and damage.
Make sure that all family
members know how to respond after a thunderstorm.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water.
Teach children how and
when to call 9-1-1, police, fire department, and which radio station to tune for
Watches and Warnings
A severe thunderstorm
watch is issued by the National Weather Service when the weather conditions
are such that a severe thunderstorm (damaging winds 58 miles per hour or more, or hail three-fourths of an inch in
diameter or greater) is likely to develop. This is the time to locate a safe
place in the home and tell family members to watch the sky and listen to the
radio or television for more information.
A severe thunderstorm
warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm
has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. At this point, the danger is
very serious and everyone should go to a safe place, turn on a battery-operated
radio or television, and wait for the "all clear" by the authorities.
Learn how to respond to a
tornado and flash flood.
Tornadoes are spawned by thunderstorms and flash flooding can occur with
thunderstorms. When a "severe thunderstorm
warning" is issued, review what actions to take under a "tornado
warning" or a "flash flood warning."
Develop an emergency
In case family members are separated from one another during a thunderstorm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at
school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state
relative or friend to serve as the "family contact". After a disaster,
it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name,
address, and phone number of the contact person.
Contact you local
emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information
on thunderstorms and lightning.
- Secure outdoor objects
such as lawn furniture that could blow away or cause damage or injury. Take
light objects inside.
- Shutter windows
securely and brace outside doors.
- Listen to a battery
operated radio or television for the latest storm information.
- Do not handle any
electrical equipment or telephones because lightning
could follow the wire. Television sets are particularly dangerous at this
- Avoid bathtubs, water
faucets, and sinks because metal pipes can transmit electricity.
- Attempt to get into a
building or car.
- If no structure is
available, get to an open space an squat low to the ground as quickly as
possible. (If in the woods, find an area protected by low clump of
trees--never stand underneath a single large tree in the open.) Be aware of
the potential for flooding in low-lying areas.
- crouch with hands on
- Avoid tall structures
such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, or power lines.
- Stay away from natural lightning
rods such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, or camping
- Stay from rivers,
lakes, or other bodies of water.
- If you are isolated in
a level field or prairie and you feel your hair stand on end (which
indicates that lightning
is about to strike), bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. A
position with feet together and crouching while removing all metal objects
is recommended. Do not lie flat on the ground.
If in a car:
- Pull safely onto the
shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle.
- Stay in the car and
turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
- Avoid flooded roadways.
Estimating the Distance
from a Thunderstorm
Because light travels much faster than sound, lightning
flashes can be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard. Estimate the
number of miles you are from a thunderstorm
by counting the number of seconds between a flash of lightning
and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by five.
Important: You are in
danger from lightning if
you can hear thunder. Knowing how far away a storm is does not mean that you're
in danger only when the storm is overhead.
Hail is produced by many strong thunderstorms. Hail can be smaller than a pea or
as large as a softball and can be very destructive to plants and crops. In a
hailstorm, take cover immediately. Pets and livestock are particularly
vulnerable to hail, so bring animals into a shelter.
Check for injuries.
A person who has been struck by lightning
does not carry an electrical charge that can shock other people. If the victim
is burned, provide first aid and call emergency medical assistance immediately.
Look for burns where lightning entered and exited the body. If the strike cause the victim's heart and
breathing to stop, give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until medical
professionals arrive and take over.
Remember to help your
neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and
people with disabilities.
Report downed utility
Drive only if necessary.
Debris and washed-out roads may make driving dangerous.