All thunderstorms are dangerous, despite relatively small size
Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared to winter storms. The
typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment around the world. That’s 16 million a year.
Despite their relatively small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms.
Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the United States, only about 10 percent are classified as severe.
The National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail at least 3/4-inch in diameter, winds greater than 58 mph or tornadoes.
Prepare for the storm
Know the names of nearby counties. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county basis.
Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended periods outdoors.
The National Weather Service has local Internet sites that are current and informative.
Always keep an eye on the sky and be alert for signs of approaching storms. Storms can develop rapidly. Watch for dark, towering, or threatening clouds and distant lightning and thunder.
If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA Weather Radio or AM/FM radio with you.
Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is the best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
Check on those who may have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.
Thunderstorms always bring lightning
Lightning is one of nature’s most awe inspiring and dangerous phenomenon. The average lightning flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than three months. The temperature of a lightning bolt may reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit which is hotter than the surface of the sun.
On average, lightning causes more casualties annually in the U.S. than any other storm-related phenomenon, except floods. Many injuries or fatalities are due to misinformation and inappropriate behavior during thunderstorms.
The chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 but could be reduced by following a few safety rules.
Avoid being in or near —
High places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communication towers, flagpoles, light poles, bleachers (metal or wooden), metal fences, convertibles, golf carts or water (ocean, lakes, swimming pools, rivers, etc.).
When inside a building avoid —
Use of the telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or any contact with conductive surfaces to the outside such as metal doors or window frames, electrical wires, telephone wiring, cable TV wiring, plumbing, etc.
If driving —
Stay in your automobile and keep the windows closed. An enclosed automobile offers reasonable protection from lightning, as long as you do not touch metal.
Generally speaking, if an individual can see lightning and/or hear thunder they are already at risk. Louder or more frequent thunder indicates that lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for lightning injury or death.
When available, pay attention to weather warning devices such as NOAA Weather Radio and credible Lightning Detection Systems. NOAA Weather Radio and local weather forecasts should be monitored before an outdoor event to determine if thunderstorms are in the forecast. Designate someone to monitor the forecast as well as to observe on-site developments to keep everyone informed when potential threats develop.
Most important, use good common sense.
Severe thunderstorm watch – Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are more likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued. Watches are intended to heighten public awareness and should not be confused with warnings.
Severe thunderstorm warning – Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
Estimating the distance from a thunderstorm
Because light travels much faster than sound, lightning flashes can be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard. Estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm by counting the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by five.
Make waves with flood preparedness
Flooding is a violent, destructive act of nature. In addition to the physical destruction and the loss of lives, emotional devastation occurs with the loss or damage of irreplaceable family items and the dirty, heartbreaking job of cleaning up after the waters have receded.
While the risk of floods can not be eliminated, steps can be taken to reduce the impact of these potentially catastrophic events.
One of the first steps is to determine if your home or business is located in a special flood hazard area. To find out if you are located in a special flood hazard area, contact your local officials for assistance.
To reduce the financial devastation of flooding, contact your local flood plain administrator or local officials to determine if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Prepare yourself before Mother Nature decides to pay a visit to your neighborhood.
Before a flood
- Be prepared – Well before the flood
- Stockpile emergency building supplies
- Develop a family disaster plan
- Create a family disaster supplies kit
Anticipate a flood — Signs to watch for
- Unusually hard rain over several hours or steady substantial rain over several days
- Rains in conjunction with a spring thaw
- Listen to NOAA weather radio or local news for possible watches or warnings
Immediately before a flood
- Bring in outdoor items that might cause damage or be lost during a flood.
- Scrub bathtubs and sinks with bleach and fill them with clean water for sanitary use in case the water supply becomes contaminated.
- If instructed to evacuate by authorities, do so immediately.