Thunderstorm Safety Tips to Protect Your Family & Home
Natural disasters can be deadly. Learn how to protect your family and your home from thunderstorms.
When thunderstorms roll in, there’s more to be worried about than raindrops fallin’ on your head. Lightning is the second-leading weather-related cause of death in the United States. Thunderstorms also can unleash downpours that turn creeks into raging rivers, 120-mph winds that plow across the ground like a bulldozer and powerful hail.
Thunderstorms develop when warm, moist air meets cold air. Conditions are most common in the late afternoon during summer. There is a silver lining to thunderstorms, though: They help disperse excess heat and clean the air of pollutants. Here’s what to do (and what not to do) if you find yourself in a thunderstorm:
Indoors: Head to a small interior room (away from windows and skylights) on the lowest level. Lightning-induced electrical current can travel through wiring and plumbing, so it’s safest to avoid using telephones, electric appliances, sinks and showers. If power fails, turn off electrical appliances and switches before the power comes back on to help avoid power-surge damage.
In a car: Pull off the road and stay inside with the windows up.
Outdoors: Seek shelter away from exposed locations (golf courses, open water and beaches, for example). Avoid isolated tall objects (such as trees, towers, metal fences and flagpoles) and elevated areas (bleachers and hilltops). If no shelter is available, use the “lightning crouch”: squat with feet together, head tucked and ears covered. Large (softball-size) hailstones often are a sign of a tornado nearby, so head to a tornado shelter.
Whether you’re seeking shelter inside or out, stay put for a little while after the storm is done. Lightning injuries can happen post-thunderstorm, so stay in a safe shelter for at least 30 minutes after the storm has passed.