All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every
thunderstorm produces lightning. In the
United States, an average of 300 people
are injured and 80 people are killed each
year by lightning. Although most lightning
victims survive, people struck by lightning
often report a variety of long-term, debilitating
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
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 wildfires.
The following are facts about thunderstorms:
- They may occur singly, in clusters,
or in lines.
- Some of the most severe occur when
a single thunderstorm affects one location
for an extended time.
- Thunderstorms typically produce
heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere
from 30 minutes to an hour.
- Warm, humid conditions are highly
favorable for thunderstorm development.
- About 10 percent of thunderstorms
are classified as severe—one
that produces hail at least three-quarters
of an inch in diameter, has winds of
58 miles per hour or higher, or produces
The following are facts about lightning:
- Lightning’s unpredictability
increases the risk to individuals
- Lightning often strikes outside
of heavy rain and may occur as far
as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
- “Heat lightning” is
actually lightning from a thunderstorm
too far away for thunder to be heard.
However, the storm may be moving in your direction!
- Most lightning deaths and injuries
occur when people are caught outdoors
in the summer months during the afternoon
- Your chances of being struck by
lightning are estimated to be 1 in
600,000, but could be reduced even further by following
- Lightning strike victims carry no
electrical charge and should be attended
to immediately. Know the Terms
yourself with these terms to help identify
a thunderstorm hazard:
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.
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.
To prepare for
you should do the following:
- Remove dead or rotting trees
and branches that could fall and cause
injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Remember the 30/30 lightning safety
rule: Go indoors if, after seeing
lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder.
Stay indoors for 30 minutes after
hearing the last clap of thunder.
are guidelines for what you should do
if a thunderstorm is likely
in your area:
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Get inside a home, building, or
hard top automobile (not
Although you may be injured if
lightning strikes your car, you
are much safer
inside a vehicle than outside.
- 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 touching metal.
- Secure outdoor objects that could
blow away or cause damage.
- Shutter windows and secure outside
doors. If shutters are not
available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
- Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing
and bathroom fixtures can conduct
- Use a corded telephone only for
emergencies. Cordless and cellular
telephones are safe to use.
- Unplug appliances and other electrical
items such as computers and
turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning
can cause serious damage.
- Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather
Radio for updates from local
Avoid the following:
- Natural lightning rods such
as a tall, isolated tree in an
- Hilltops, open fields, the beach,
or a boat on the water
- Isolated sheds or other small structures
in open areas
- Anything metal—tractors, farm
equipment, motorcycles, golf
carts, golf clubs, and bicycles
During a Thunderstorm
If you are in
Seek shelter in a low area under
a thick growth of small trees.
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.
Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end
(which indicates that lightning is about
to strike). Squat low to the ground on
the balls of your feet. Place your hands
over your ears and your head between your
knees. Make yourself the smallest target
possible and minimize your contact with
the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.
After a Thunderstorm
9-1-1 for medical assistance as soon
The following are things you should check
when you attempt to give aid to a victim
- Breathing - if breathing
has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- 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.
If you require more information about any
of these topics, the following resource
may be helpful.
Facts about Lightning. 200252. Two-page
factsheet for boaters. Available online
NOAA - When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
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