Thunderstorms and Lightning Safety
Posted at 11:50 a.m.
Summer is here, which means school is out, pools are open and baseball season is in full swing. Unfortunately, the summer months also bring higher possibilities for thunderstorms and other severe weather.
Although thunderstorms can occur any time of year, they are much more common during the summer, especially in the late afternoon hours. Besides just ruining your barbecue or golf outing, thunderstorms pose a real danger. In fact, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management reports that lightning kills over 60 people and injures over 400 more each year in the U.S. They can also develop very quickly — sometimes in less than 30 minutes — and with little warning, making it difficult to plan ahead and prepare.
The next time you see dark clouds rolling in over your picnic, party or day at the pool, remember these tips for staying safe during a summer storm.
- Everyone knows to avoid open areas during a thunderstorm, but did you know that taking shelter under a tree is more dangerous? In Virginia, more deaths and injuries were reported from lightning strikes under trees than in open space from 1959-2000. When it’s raining hard our natural instinct is to find shelter, but unless you can get inside a building or car, you’d be better off in the rain than under a tree.
- If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck by lightning. This means you need to take caution even if you feel like the storm has nearly passed, as lightning can still strike up to 15 miles from the center of the storm.
- Contrary to popular belief, lying down in a thunderstorm is not a safe practice. The idea is that by getting as low as possible one might lessen their chances of being struck. In reality, by increasing the amount of the ground’s surface you are covering, you are actually much more likely to be struck.
- Getting inside is a great first step, but be sure to avoid plumbing, like baths, sinks and faucets, and electrical equipment, like phones and computers, as well as windows, porches and concrete floors and walls.
- In the event that someone is struck by lightning, medical attention will likely be needed immediately. Once medical assistance has been called try to move the victim to a safe place. Don’t worry about touching a victim of a lightning strike; they won’t hold a charge. There is a chance that the victim’s heart or breathing may have stopped as a result of the strike, in which case CPR or AED will be needed.
The warm, humid conditions of summer are a perfect recipe for thunderstorms. Keep these tips in mind for a fun, safe summer, no matter what Mother Nature has in store.
For more information on thunderstorm and lightning safety, visit our emergency information page or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s thunderstorm basics Web page or the National Weather Service lightning safety Web page.