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WHAT TO DO AND NOT TO DO IN A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS:

While all thunderstorms are dangerous, a severe thunderstorm is one that produces hail at least ¾ “ in diameter, has high winds of 58 mph or greater and produces a tornado.

RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM:

Lightning. Although most victims of lightning strikes do survive, 75-100 people in the U.S. are killed each year by lightning…more than are killed each year by tornadoes. Lightning also causes an estimated 5 billion dollars in economic losses each year in the U.S.

Hail. Hail can be smaller than a tear or as large as a softball and can cause destruction to automobiles, glass surfaces, roofs, plants and crops.  Pets and livestock are particularly vulnerable to hail.

Downbursts and straight-line winds. Thunderstorms can produce winds as high as 150 mph, strong enough to flip cars, vans and trucks.

Flash floods. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding.

Tornadoes. Some thunderstorms may spawn other tornadoes.

LIGHTNING:

Lightning often strikes outside areas of heavy rain and can occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.  You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. More than 50% of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed.

 

KEY STEPS IN THUNDERSTORM PREPAREDNESS:

  • Understand the risk. Severe thunderstorms can occur year-round and at any hour.
  • Learn to make a small target. Practice squatting low to the ground, making the smallest target possible while minimizing contact with the ground, when outside.
  • Pay attention to warnings. Use a weather radio with a tone-alert feature or listen to a local radio or television station for weather broadcasts. Learn the community’s warning system and never ignore warnings.

YOU SHOULD AVOID:

  • Water sources. If boating or swimming, get to land immediately.  Stay away from bodies of water and wet sand.  If indoors, stay away from running water. Electricity from lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • The telephone. Electricity from lightning can also travel through phone lines.
  • The outdoors. A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a severe thunderstorm.  Avoid unprotected areas and unprotected shelters in open areas.
  • Electricity can enter a room through appliances. You should turn off air conditioning and appliances.  Also, by unplugging and turning off appliances you can eliminate the risk of damage from surges that accompany lighting strikes in close proximity to the home.

 YOU SHOULD TAKE MEASURES TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY:

  • Bring outdoor furniture inside or otherwise secure it to keep it from blowing and becoming a deadly projectile in high winds.
  • Remove dead or overhanging limbs from trees and shrubbery. Strategically remove branches to allow the wind to pass through.  Strong winds can break weak limbs and carry them at high speed, thus causing damage to property or injury to humans and animals.

IF CAUGHT OUTDOORS IN A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM YOU SHOULD:

  • Avoid water sources. Get out of pools, lakes, etc. Get off the beach areas as well.
  • Seek shelter in a substantial, permanent, enclosed structure. Avoid unprotected shelters such as golf carts, baseball dugouts, etc. Remember that isolated shelters in otherwise open areas are a target for lightning. Temporary shelters, such as gazebos, are subject to being blown in a strong wind and offer little protection from hail.
  • If there are no permanent shelters within reach, take shelter in a vehicle. Keep all windows closed and do not touch anything that is metal.  If in the woods, find an area that is protected by low trees, (not a single tall tree in the open.) As a last resort, go to a low-lying area, away from trees, poles and metal objects. (Avoid areas that are subject to flooding.) Squat low to the ground, and place your hands on your knees with hour head between them.  Make as small of a target as possible. DO NOT lie flat on the ground!
  • Avoid natural lightning rods. Golf clubs, tractor, fishing rods, some umbrellas have metal rods, and camping equipment. Lightning is attracted to all of these items.

 

NOTE: After any severe thunderstorm, check in on your neighbors to ensure that they are okay, especially the elderly and/or disabled.