Hazards: Thunderstorms and Lightning

Thunderstorm and Lightning icon

All thunderstorms produce lightning and all have the potential for danger. Those dangers can include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfires and flash flooding, which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm-related hazard.

Lightning's risk is increased because of its unpredictability - lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.

What to Do

“When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.” At the first clap of thunder, the smartest decision is to go indoors or into an enclosed vehicle. Remain inside until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Use the 30/30 lightning safety rule. If you see lightning and you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, go indoors. Then stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery­powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.

If you are driving:

  • try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and close the windows.
    • Turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends.
    • Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building:

  • avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers.
    • Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

If you are 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 it the ground.
  • DO NOT lie flat on the ground.

Thunderstorm Terms

Thunderstorm Watch
A thunder storm watch means there is a possibility of a thunderstorm in your area.

Thunderstorm Warning
A thunder storm warning means a thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon.

Related Information

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