Lightning is one of the most underrated severe weather hazards, yet ranks as the second-leading weather killer in the United States. More deadly than hurricanes or tornadoes, lightning strikes in America kill an average of 79 people and injure 300 others each year, according to NOAA's National Weather Service.
What to Do Before a Storm with Lightning
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Remember the 30 / 30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. Postpone outdoor activities.
- Get inside a home, building or hard-top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
- Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
- Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage. Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
Avoid the Following
- Showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Natural lightning rods such as a tall isolated tree in an open area.
- Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.
- Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
- Anything metal:
- Farm equipment
- Golf carts
- Golf clubs
- Corded telephones should be avoided and only used for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
What to Do During a Storm with Lightning
Seek shelter immediately. You are not safe anywhere outside. 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.
If You Are Outside
- Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of bushes or small trees.
- Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.
- 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 with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.
If Lightning Strikes a Person
- Call 911 for medical assistance immediately.
- If the person is not responsive and not breathing, begin CPR immediately. Use an Automatic External Defibrillator if available.
- Check for other injuries - Check for burns in two places. The injured person has received an electric shock and may be burned, both where struck and where the electricity left their body. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight. People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and cannot shock other people.