When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Did you see pictures from last night’s thunderstorm in the Northeast? If not check out this awesome video footage of the lightning over New York City from CNN.com.

Here is a still frame of the video:

Lightning over New York City. Stillframe from a video on CNN.com.

Lightning is fascinating to watch but also extremely dangerous. In the United States, there are about 25 million lightning flashes every year. Each of those 25 million flashes is a potential killer. You need to understand that there is little you can do to reduce your risk while outside. The only completely safe option is to get inside of a safe building or vehicle.

When you hear thunder – no matter how far away it may sound – you are already in danger of becoming a victim of lightning.

What can you do to prepare you family? Here are some tips to teach everyone in your household.

Run to a safe building or vehicle when you first hear thunder, see lightning or observe dark threatening clouds developing overhead. Stay inside until 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder. Do not shelter under trees. You are not safe anywhere outside.

Plan Ahead! Check your local weather forecast or  NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) before heading outdoors.  Stay updated throughout the day. Make a plan for where your family will go if you hear thunder. Find a safe building nearby.

What is a safe building or safe vehicle? A safe building is one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor, and has plumbing or wiring. examples include a home, school, church, hotel, office building or shopping center. Once inside, stay away from showers, sinks, bath tubs, and electronic equipment such as stoves, radios, corded telephones and computers. Unsafe buildings include car ports, open garages, covered patios, picnic shelters, beach pavilions, golf shelters, tents of any kinds, baseball dugouts, sheds and greenhouses.

A safe vehicle is any fully enclosed metal-topped vehicle such as a hard-topped car, minivan, bus, truck, etc. While inside a safe vehicle, do not use electronic devices such as radio communications during a thunderstorm. If you drive into a thunderstorm, slow down and use extra caution. If possible, pull off the road into a safe area. Do not leave the vehicle during
a thunderstorm. Unsafe vehicles include golf carts, convertibles, motorcycles, or any open cab vehicle.

Here are some other tips to remember:

  • If camping, hiking, etc., far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
  • If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
  • Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

Remember to be safe this weekend. And when thunder roars, go indoors!