Summer means fun in the sun, as well as the threat of frequent storms. Thunderstorms and the associated havoc they wreak can be quite dangerous. You may be surprised to learn that flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm hazard, and it’s the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. Learning how to prepare for and stay safe during summer storms is critically important. Here are some valuable pointers:
If you’re outdoors:
- If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to pose an immediate threat. Seek shelter immediately.
- Get away from elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
- Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
- It may be tempting to take cover under a picnic gazebo but in open-sided structures, a lightening bolt's path of least resistance to the ground could be you.
- Steer clear of trees. Lightning commonly strikes trees because of their height. If struck, a tree conducts potentially deadly current into the ground and can even explode from the bolt's extreme heat. In addition, strong winds can snap branches, which can result in serious injury and even death.
- Stay away from metal objects, including tractors, motorcycles, bicycles, and wire fences.
- If you’re outside when a storm is imminent and there’s no shelter close by, keep moving toward a suitable protective environment while sticking to low-lying ground, if possible.
If you’re indoors:
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage, such as porch furniture and umbrellas.
- Shut all windows and secure your doors.
- Turn off and unplug computers and other electrical devices.
- When lightning strikes a building, the electrical charge can surge through pipes, so you could get zapped if you’re touching running water. Avoid contact with water and all plumbing, including sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets.
- Any device that’s plugged in is susceptible to electrical surges, so stay off the landline phone and only use a wireless device.
- Avoid contact with concrete floors, walls, and porches. Lightning can travel through metal wires or bars in concrete walls and flooring.
If you’re driving:
- If the storm is severe, pull off the road and park in a safe spot until it passes.
- Remain inside your vehicle. The car's metal body conducts electricity around the passenger cabin and into the ground.
- Avoid contact with your car’s metal components, such as door handles and radio dials.
- Torrential rain can create puddles that look shallow but run deep. Just five inches of water can stall your car’s engine! Stalling increases the risk that another vehicle will hit yours and it also leaves you vulnerable in the event of a flash flood.
- Avoid areas with a lot of storm debris or downed trees. Downed power lines could be lurking in the wreckage.
Every year, people are killed or seriously injured by severe thunderstorms, despite having advance warning. While some may not have heard the warning; others heard it but didn’t take it seriously. Monitoring weather reports and heeding warnings about severe weather can keep you and your family safe this summer.
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