Thunderstorms & Lightning
All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm
produces lightning. While lightning fatalities have decreased
over the past 30-years, lightning continues to be one of the top
three storm-related killers in the United States. On average
in the US, lightning kills 51 people and inures hundreds more.
Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning
often report a variety of long-term debilitating symptoms.
Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes,
strong winds, hail and flash flooding.
Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities - more than 140
annually - than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Dry
thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are
most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops
evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when
and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the
sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or
television for information.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when
severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar.
Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in
the path of the storm.
Before Thunderstorm & Lightning
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:
- To begin preparing, you should build an Emergency Kit and
make a Family Communications Plan.
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall
and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Get inside a home, building or hard top automobile (not a
convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning
strikes your car, you are much safer inside the vehicle than
- Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO
protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a
hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters
are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
- Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm
Lightning Risk Reduction When Outdoors:
|If you are:
|In a forest
||Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small
|In an open area
||Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be
alert for flash floods.
|On open water
||Get to land and find shelter immediately
During Thunderstorms & Lightning
If thunderstorm and lightning are occurring in your area, you
- Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates
from local officials.
- Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those
plugged into electrical for recharging. Cordless and
wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
- Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.
Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers
and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning
can cause serious damage.
- Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands,
do not take a shower, do not wash dishes and do not do laundry.
Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Stay away from windows and doors and stay off porches.
- Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against
- Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree
in an open area.
- Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the
- Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated
sheds or other small structures in open areas.
- Avoid contact with anything metal - tractors, farm
equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
- 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.
After a Thunderstorm or Lightning Strike
If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 9-1-1 for
medical assistance as soon as possible. The following are
things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of
- Breathing - If breathing has stopped, begin
- Heartbeat - If the heart has stopped,
- Pulse - If the victim has a pulse and is
breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for
burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also
be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of
hearing and eyesight.
After the storm passes -- remember to:
- Never drive through a flooded roadway. Turn around,
- Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting
yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.
- Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio
and television stations for updated information or instructions,
as access to roads or some parts of the community may be
- Help people who may require special assistance, such as
infants, children and the elderly or those with access or
- Stay away from downed power lines and report them
- Watch your animals closely. Keep them under your