Lightning: What You Need to Know

According to the National Weather Service/NOAA, lightning kills an average of 49 people in the United States each year, and hundreds more are severely injured. Although most lightning occurs in the summer (July is generally the month with the most lightning), people can be struck at any time of year.

Lightning strikes often occur in the afternoon. In fact, two-thirds of all lightning casualties occur between noon and 6 p.m.

Outdoor Lightning Tips:

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder. Lightning often strikes outside areas of heavy rain and can strike as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms seemingly have passed.

What is considered a safe shelter during a lightning storm?

A safe shelter is a fully enclosed vehicle or a substantial building that has four walls and a roof. Examples of safe shelters include homes, offices, shopping centers, and hard-top vehicles with windows rolled up. Open vehicles (such as convertibles, golf-carts, and motorcycles) and open structures (such as park rain shelters, porches, gazebos, baseball dugouts, and sports arenas) are NOT safe during a lightning storm.

If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground; instead crouch down in a ball-like position (feet and knees together) with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from metal objects, such as playground and sports equipment
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

Indoor Lightning Tips:

Even though your home or child care program is a safe shelter during a lightning storm, you may still be at risk. According to the CDC, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.

  • Avoid anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, such as computers, televisions, gaming systems, appliances etc. and avoid using corded phones, except in emergencies.  Cell phones and cordless phones are safe.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and outside doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

MAKE A LIGHTNING SAFETY PLAN

The best way for you to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat.

You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. While some people move inside at the first signs of a thunderstorm, many people wait far too long to get to a safe place. Some wait until the thunderstorm is overhead and it starts to rain. Others, due to poor planning, are caught outside and can’t get to a safe place. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.

Have a lightning safety plan.  If you have outdoor plans, be sure to familiarize yourself with the latest weather forecast before heading out. Consider taking a portable NOAA Weather Radio or AM/FM radio with you.  Cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Monitor weather conditions and get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening.

First Aid for Lightning Victims

If someone is struck by lightning, they may need immediate medical attention. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to touch. Call 911 and monitor the victim. Start CPR or use an Automated External Defibrillator if needed.

Additional first-aid steps are included in this link:

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/lightning/firstaid.html

Although lightning affects all regions in the United States, the southeastern states are most at risk. Lightning generally decreases from the southeast to the northwest, except for a few places such as the Rocky Mountains, where topography causes regular thunderstorms during the summer. Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas have the most lightning deaths and injuries.

Florida is considered the “lightning capital” of the country, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries over the past 50 years.

Helpful websites:

http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/

https://www.ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/lightning/safetytips.html

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/lightning/resources/lightning-safety.pdf

 

For kids:

http://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-thunder-and-lightning/

http://www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-lightning.htm

 

Click here to find out where lightning is currently striking within the United States.:

http://thunderstorm.vaisala.com/explorer.html

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