National Preparedness Month: Thunderstorms & Lightning

by: Michelle Fulleda

Are you ready when lightning strikes? Thunderstorms are most likely to occur in the spring and summer months during the afternoon and evening hours, but they can occur year-round and at all hours. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which is one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. Tornados, hail, strong winds and flash flooding are other dangers concerning thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are not something to overlook, and it is important to pay attention to warnings and be prepared for all severe weather.

In order to prepare for severe thunderstorms, you must know the difference between a Severe Thunderstorm Watch and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. A Watch means severe thunderstorms are possible and near the area. A warning means severe weather has been reported or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate immediate danger to life and property. This will let you know how to react and prepare.

Keeping your home safe and prepared

How to respond during a thunderstorm

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates.

  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.

  • Take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.

  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.

  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.

  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.

  • 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 you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Recovering After

  • Never drive through a flooded roadway. You cannot predict how deep the water may be.

  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.

  • Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.

  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.

  • Watch your animals closely. Keep them under your direct control.

Let Your Family Know You’re Safe

If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website to let your family and friends know you are safe. You may also call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.


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