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In the United States, lightning kills 300 people and injures 80 on average each year. All thunderstorms produce lightning and all have the potential for danger. Those dangers can include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfires and flash flooding, which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm-related hazard.
Lightning’s risk to individuals and property is increased because of its unpredictability. It often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
Preparing for a Severe Thunderstorm
- Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a thunderstorm hazard, including understanding the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning.
- A thunderstorm watch means there is a possibility of a thunderstorm in your area.
- A thunderstorm warning means a thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon. If you are advised to take shelter so immediately.
- Get an emergency supply kit.
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Use the 30/30 lightning safety rule. If you see lightning and you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, go indoors. Then stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
Have a Thunderstorm Plan
- If a thunderstorm is likely in your area, postpone outdoor activities.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
- Avoid showering or bathing during a thunderstorm. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Watch for darkening skies, lightning, increasing winds.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio for information.
- Go quickly inside a home, building or hard top automobile, if possible.
- If shelter is not available go to the lowest area nearby and make yourself the smallest target possible but do not lie flat on the ground.
- If on open water, get to land and shelter immediately.
- Things to avoid include:
- Tall, isolated tree in an open area.
- Hilltops, open fields, the beach, a boat on the water, isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
- Anything metal — tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles
- Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should listen to your battery operated or hand crank NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.
- Do not use electrical items such as computers or television sets as power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
- A corded telephone should only be used in an emergency, but cordless phones and cell phones are safe to use.