Thunderstorms and Lightning


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About Thunderstorms and Lightning

Many people enjoy listening to the sound of rain falling and watching the sky illuminate from brilliant flashes of lightning.  However, many folks do not realize that all thunderstorms are dangerous and every thunderstorm produces lightning.  Each year, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed by lightning.  While most people struck by lightning survive, most are left with life-altering and debilitating effects.

 Thunderstorm and Lightning Facts

  • Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines.
  • Some of the most severe impacts from thunderstorms result from a single thunderstorm affecting one location for an extended period of time.
  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain that lasts for a brief period, lasting from 30 minutes to an hour or more.
  • Warm, humid conditions are favorable for thunderstorm development.
  • A severe thunderstorm means that the storm produces hail that is 3/4 of an inch in diameter, has wind speeds in excess of 58 miles per hour, or is likely to produce a tornado.
  • Over 16 million thunderstorms occur each year around the world.
  • Within the HOTCOG region, most thunderstorms occur in the afternoon or late evening.
  • Lightning strikes are unpredictable.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and can occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall associated with a thunderstorm.
  • The chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000.
  • By counting the seconds between a flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, then dividing by five, you can estimate your distance from the lightning strike (in miles).

Severe Thunderstorm Watch vs Severe Thunderstorm Warning

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 local television stations for information.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by storm spotters or indicated by radar.  Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Fact vs Fiction

Fiction: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning has “favorite” sites that it may hit many times during a single storm.  Often, these “favorite” sites contain large amounts of metal, isolated trees, and other similar conductors of electricity that serve as natural lightning rods.

Preventing Thunderstorm and Lightning Damage

  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm event.
  • Stay indoors during thunderstorm events.  You are at greatest risk when you are outdoors.

What to Do During a Thunderstorm

  • Postpone any outdoor activities.
  • Get inside of a building or hard top vehicle.  While you can still be injured if lightning strikes the vehicle, you are much safer than being outside.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Close outside doors and windows.  Draw the blinds, shades, or curtains closed.
  • Avoid showering or bathing during thunderstorms.  Plumbing and bathroom fixtures conduct electricity.
  • Use a corded telephone only for emergencies.  Telephone lines conduct electricity.  Cellular and cordless phones are safest to use.
  • Unplug electronic devices and appliances to protect them from electrical surges.
  • Monitor local television and radio stations, as well as a NOAA weather radio, to gain the most current and accurate information.  Do NOT rely on social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, for information.  Often, weather reports are reposted by other users and are likely inaccurate.
  • Stay safe by steering clear of bodies of water, isolated trees, metal objects, isolated structures, and elevated land areas.  These areas have been proven to be the most susceptible for lightning strikes.

If Someone is Struck by Lightning

  • Call 911 immediately!
  • The person is safe to touch, they will not carry or store an electrical charge.  Determine if the person is breathing and has a pulse.
  • If the victim does not have a pulse, begin CPR immediately.
  • Give first aid to the victim.  Lightning strikes cause burns, broken bones, nervous system damage, loss of hearing, and a number of other injuries.