How to stay safe in a thunderstorm and protect yourself from lightning


Before the Storm……

  • Know the county or parish in which you live and the names of the nearby major cities. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county or parish basis.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving for extend outdoor periods.
  • Watch for signs of approaching storms.
  • If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA weather Radio or AM/FM radio with you.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if a thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Check for those who have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.

When Thunderstorms Approach….

  • Remember: if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to a storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in a convertible automobile.
  • If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hardtop automobile and keep the windows up.
  • Get out of boats and away from water.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary to obtain weather information. Avoid using telephones or any electrical appliance. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.
  • Do not take a bath or shower.
  • Turn off air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
  • Get to higher ground if flash floods are possible. Once flooding begins, abandon cars and climb to higher ground. Do not attempt to drive to safety. Note: Most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles.

If Caught Outdoors and No Shelter is Nearby…..

  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact to the ground.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.

Some Enlightening Facts & Safety Tips About Lightning

  • Average Lightning Stroke is 6 miles long.
  • The Temperature of lightning’s return stroke can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface of the sun is not even that hot! (around 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Average Thunderstorm is 6-10 miles wide.
  • Average Thunderstorm travels at a rate of 25 miles per hour.
  • Once the leading edge of a thunderstorm approaches to within 10 miles, you are at immediate risk due to the possibility of lightning strokes coming from overhanging anvil cloud. Because of this, many lightning deaths and injuries occur with clear skies directly overhead.
  • On average, thunder can only be heard over a distance of 3-4 miles, depending on humidity, terrain and other factors.
  • Approximately 100,000 thunderstorms occur in the United States each year.
  • Approximately 10% of all thunderstorms are severe enough to produce high winds, flash floods, and tornadoes.
  • Thunderstorms cause an average of 200 deaths and 700 injuries in the United States each year.

These facts are taken from the Automated Weather Source Online
Lightning Safety Rules courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) U. S. Department of Commerce

  • Stay indoors, and don’t venture outside, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay away from open doors and windows, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks, and plug-in electrical appliances.
  • Don’t use plug-in electrical equipment like hair driers, electric toothbrushes, or electric razors during the storm.
  • Don’t use the telephone during the storm. Lightning may strike telephone lines outside.
  • Don’t take laundry off the clothesline.
  • Don’t work on fences, telephone or power lines, pipelines, or structural steel fabrication.
  • Don’t use metal objects like fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
  • Don’t handle flammable materials in open containers.
  • Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the ground are often struck by lightning.
  • Get out of the water and off small boats.
  • Stay in your automobile if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection.
  • Seek shelter in buildings. If no buildings are available, your best protection is a cave, ditch, canyon, or under head-high clumps of trees in open forest glades.
  • When there is no shelter, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, your best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
  • Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clotheslines, exposed sheds, and any electrically conductive elevated objects.
  • When you feel the electrical charge — if your hair stands on end or your skin tingles — lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to the ground immediately.