June 20, 2013
When a severe thunderstorm rolls in, lightning strikes can be a dangerous threat. Powerful lightning strikes can hit trees, bodies of water, vehicles, and even buildings. Lightning can cause power outages, damage to structures, and possibly serious injury. Understanding lightning risks is an important part of thunderstorm safety, especially considering that we often compare unlikely events (like winning the lottery) to being struck by lightning. It does happen.
You can start preparing for a severe thunderstorm even before one hits to minimize your risk of injury or property damage. The most important tool you can have is a weather alert radio. A radio will notify you when a storm is approaching, and continue providing information about the storm’s threat, which can include dangerous lightning strikes. A model that provides battery-back-up will be the most reliable in the event of a power outage. Think about purchasing special equipment to keep your electronics safe from lightning strikes. The average surge protector will not keep your devices from being damaged by a lightning induced electrical surge.
During severe weather accompanied by lightning, the most important thing to remember is to seek shelter. Strong, reinforced buildings such as homes and businesses provide the most protection. However, during an emergency, any shelter is better than none. Moving to a safe, sheltered area away from windows greatly reduces the risk of being struck by lightning.
If you are outdoors and unable to find shelter indoors, take cover in a vehicle. The car’s metal structure will help reroute a potential lightning strike. In the case that you are too far away from any shelter or vehicle, you can do a few things that may lower your risk of getting hit by lightning. Trees, tall objects, and metal structures (such as fences) are most likely to be hit, so don’t plan on using those for shelter. If you are in an open area, seek out low ground with some natural protection, such as a valley or ravine.
Lightning can cause serious injury to you or your family no matter where you are, even in your own home. Stay away from windows and doors, which can also be vulnerable to high winds during a severe storm. Because water and metal conduct electricity, avoid plumbing or activities using water, such as taking a shower or doing laundry. Refrain from using corded phones; instead use your mobile phone or a cordless landline. Concrete walls and floors can also present a risk, so it’s essential to keep away from areas with these features.
Understanding the risks of lightning is an important part of thunderstorm safety, and can play a crucial part in keeping you and your loved ones safe in the event of severe weather. Always be prepared for severe weather by having a weather alert radio with battery back-up nearby in the event lightning knocks out electricity.