can be seen approaching, while others hit without warning. It is
important to learn and recognize the danger signs and to plan ahead.
Learn the thunderstorm
- Dark, towering,
or threatening clouds.
- Distant lightning
supplies on hand
with extra batteries
battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- First aid
kit and manual
food and water
- Cash and
- Sturdy shoes
Check for hazards
in the yard.
Dead or rotting trees and branches can fall during a severe thunderstorm
and cause injury and damage.
Make sure that
all family members know how to respond after a thunderstorm.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and
how and when to call 9-1-1, police, fire department, and which radio
station to tune for emergency information.
Watches and Warnings
A severe thunderstorm watch is issued by the National Weather
Service when the weather conditions are such that a severe thunderstorm
(damaging winds 58 miles per hour or more, or hail three-fourths
of an inch in diameter or greater) is likely to develop. This is
the time to locate a safe place in the home and tell family members
to watch the sky and listen to the radio or television for more
thunderstorm warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm has
been sighted or indicated by weather radar. At this point, the danger
is very serious and everyone should go to a safe place, turn on
a battery-operated radio or television, and wait for the "all clear"
by the authorities.
Learn how to
respond to a tornado and flash flood.
Tornadoes are spawned by thunderstorms and flash flooding can occur
with thunderstorms. When a "severe thunderstorm warning" is issued,
review what actions to take under a "tornado warning" or a "flash
Develop an emergency
In case family members are separated from one another during a thunderstorm
(a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children
are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state
relative or friend to serve as the "family contact". After a disaster,
it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows
the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter
for more information on thunderstorms and lightning.
- Secure outdoor
objects such as lawn furniture that could blow away or cause damage
or injury. Take light objects inside.
- Shutter windows
securely and brace outside doors.
- Listen to
a battery operated radio or television for the latest storm information.
- Do not handle
any electrical equipment or telephones because lightning could
follow the wire. Television sets are particularly dangerous at
- Avoid bathtubs,
water faucets, and sinks because metal pipes can transmit electricity.
- Attempt to
get into a building or car.
- If no structure
is available, get to an open space an squat low to the ground
as quickly as possible. (If in the woods, find an area protected
by low clump of trees--never stand underneath a single large tree
in the open.) Be aware of the potential for flooding in low-lying
- crouch with
hands on knees.
- Avoid tall
structures such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines,
or power lines.
- Stay away
from natural lightning rods such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing
rods, bicycles, or camping equipment.
- Stay from
rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water.
- If you are
isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel your hair stand
on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike), bend
forward, putting your hands on your knees. A position with feet
together and crouching while removing all metal objects is recommended.
Do not lie flat on the ground.
If in a car:
- Pull safely
onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall
on the vehicle.
- Stay in the
car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
- Avoid flooded
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.
are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. Knowing how
far away a storm is does not mean that you're in danger only when
the storm is overhead.
Hail is produced by many strong thunderstorms. Hail can be smaller
than a pea or as large as a softball and can be very destructive
to plants and crops. In a hailstorm, take cover immediately. Pets
and livestock are particularly vulnerable to hail, so bring animals
into a shelter.
Check for injuries.
A person who has been struck by lightning does not carry an electrical
charge that can shock other people. If the victim is burned, provide
first aid and call emergency medical assistance immediately. Look
for burns where lightning entered and exited the body. If the strike
cause the victim's heart and breathing to stop, give cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) until medical professionals arrive and take
help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants,
elderly people, and people with disabilities.
Drive only if
necessary. Debris and washed-out roads may make driving dangerous.