All Thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. In the United States, an average of 80 people are killed every year by lightning, and 300 are injured. Most people hit by lightning survive. People who have been hit by lightning often report a variety of long term debilitating symptoms.
Other dangers which are associated with thunderstorms include hail, flash flooding, tornadoes and strong winds. Of these dangers, flash flooding causes more deaths (more than 140 annually) than any of the other.
"Dry Thunderstorms" are ones whose rain does not reach the ground. This type usually occurs in the western part of the United States. Even though the rain evaporates before it reaches the ground, the lightning can still reach the ground and start a wildfire.
Facts about Thunderstorms
♦ Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, from a few minutes to an hour.
♦ They can occur singly, in clusters, or in a line.
♦ Some of the most severe thunderstorms affect one location for an extended period of time.
♦ Thunderstorms are most likely to occur when there are warm and humid conditions.
♦ Only ten percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe. To qualify as severe, there is hail that is at least three quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of fifty eight miles an hour or more, or produces a tornado.
Facts about Lightning
♦ Lightning is unpredictable. This increases the risk to people and property.
♦ Lightning often strikes outside the heavy rain area. Lightning can strike as far as ten miles away from where the rain is falling.
♦ "Heat Lightning" is from a thunderstorm which is too far away to hear the thunder. Be away that the storm may be heading in your direction.
♦ More deaths and injuries happen during the summer months, in the afternoon and evening, when people are caught outside.
♦ The odds of you being struck by lightning are 1 in 600,ooo. You can reduce this risk by following safety precautions.
♦ People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge. They should be taken care of immediately.
Terms that will help identify thunderstorm hazards:
Severe Thunderstorm Watch:
♦ A watch tells you where severe thunderstorms are most likely to occur.
♦ Watch the sky for signs.
♦ Tune to the NOAA Weather station on your radio, or listen to your local news on the television.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning:
♦ A warning is issued when human spotters report seeing severe weather, or when it is seen on radar.
♦ A warning means immediate danger to life and property that is in the path of the storm.
♦ Turn in to your local news for updates and instructions.(Many people can not remember the difference between a Watch and a Warning. Try using the following to help you.
A Warning is Happening. Both end in "ing".
A Watch is something you can not see, so you have to Watch for it: Wait and Watch to see if it happens.)
Before A Thunderstorm
♦ Take a CPR/First Aid class.
♦ Remove rotting or dead branches or tress that could fall during a thunderstorm and cause injury or damage to you or your property.
♦ Remember the "30/30 Rule".
If you see lightning, and cannot count to 30 before you hear the thunder, go inside and stay there for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder you hear.
During a Thunderstorm
♦ If you are outside, get inside immediately. Get inside your house, another building, or your car. (A convertible does not offer protection. You may be injured if you are in your car and lightning strikes, but you are safer inside that outside your car. Do not touch any of the metal in your car.)
♦ Rubber (such as tires or rubber soled shoes) does not provide protection from lightning.
♦ Postpone any outside activities, such as sports or barbecues.
♦ Secure any outdoor objects that could blow away in the winds and cause damage.
♦ If you have shutters on your windows, close and latch them. Close and lock all doors leading outside. Pull down window shades and draw the drapes. This will help protect you from glass if an object breaks your window.
♦ Since plumbing fixtures can conduct electricity, avoid taking a bath or shower, and using the sink in the bathroom or kitchen.
♦ If you need to use the phone, it is safe to use a cell phone or a cordless telephone. If the power goes out, you must use a corded land line telephone. Make calls only if there is an emergency. This will help keep the lines from becoming overloaded.
♦ Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage to your electrical systems. Go around the house and unplug appliances, computers, televisions, any as many other items as you can. Turn off your heating and air conditioning unit.
♦ Listen for news and weather update on your battery operated radio.
♦ If you have pets, keep them inside. If you have outdoor animals such as chickens, livestock or horses, leave them in their area. Remove anything in their areas that could injure them, and secure everything else. Do not keep going out to check on them, as you could be injured.
Avoid the following:
♦ Natural lightning rods such as tall trees or isolated trees in an open area
♦ The beach or boats, hilltops or open fields
♦ Small structures or sheds in open areas
♦ Metal of all kinds such as metal sheds, bicycles, motorcycles, farm equipment, tractors, golf clubs and golf carts.
During a Thunderstorm, if you are...
♦ In an Open Area and there are no buildings close to you...
Find a low place to stay, such as a ravine or valley, even a drainage ditch.
Be alert to possible flash floods.
♦ In the Forest, or Woods, or out Camping...
Find a low place to stay.
You can also find shelter under in an area under thick growth of small trees or bushes.
♦ In the Open Water...
Get to land as fast as possible, then find a building in which to stay.
If you are in a boat with a marine radio, let the Coast Guard or someone know where you are and what your situation is.
♦ Anywhere, and you feel the hair stand on end, this means lightning is about to strike.
Do Not lie down on the ground! This makes you a larger target. Make yourself as small a target as possible with as little ground contact as you can manage. Squat down on the ball of your feet, cover your ears with your hands, and put your head between your knees.
If Someone is Hit by Lightning
Call 9-1-1 for Emergency Medical Assistance
♦ A person hit by lightning does not carry an electrical charge. It is safe to touch him.
♦ The person has received an electrical shock. He may have burns where the lightning hit, and where the electricity left the body. The electrical shock can also disrupt the heart's electrical system.
♦ Check the person to see if he is conscious, is breathing and/or has a pulse. You may have to perform rescue breathing or CPR and First Aid.
(Take a CPR/First Aid class to learn what to do.)
♦ Lightning strikes can also cause damage to the nervous system, broken bones, and hearing and vision loss.