Severe Weather: Lightning Safety Tips

How to protect yourself when thunderstorms threaten

Preparing for severe weather: Lightning safety

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Lightning is a completely random act of nature that can occur any month, any day, and any time.

It is a quick electrical discharge between a cloud and the ground below. Each bolt is around 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit or five times hotter than the surface of the sun. In the U.S. alone, we see more than 25 million lightning strikes a year. Out of the hundreds injured by lightning every year, around 90% of them do survive.

NBC12 even spoke with a survivor not too long ago. You may remember his story from Season 1, Episode 1 of our “How We Got Here” podcast. Our Rachel DePompa followed up with Jonathan 10 years after his initial interview as a young boy, and he recalls how the strike changed his life.

The old saying “when thunder roars, go indoors” still holds true. Although you may not see the lightning, you’ll likely hear the thunder. The two work as a pair. Positive and negative charges connect and cause a flash of light in the sky, the air then rapidly expands from the heat of the lightning. Finally, the air contracts and you hear a loud boom - thunder.

Unfortunately, we can’t predict its location or timing in the same way that we predict snow or tornadoes.

Since we can only track lightning after it has already struck, there are easy steps you can take to prevent being a victim of a lightning strike.

When thunder roars, go indoors.
When thunder roars, go indoors. (Source: WWBT)

1. Find a safe place. This is any structure with at least four walls & a roof (ex: a house or a school). If you’re on the go, any fully enclosed vehicle with a metal top will do! Make sure to stay away from showers, sinks, & other electrical equipment.

2. If you’re outside & can’t find a sound structure, get as far away from water, isolated trees and wide-open spaces as you can. You don’t want to be the tallest object in an area.

3. Stay inside for at least thirty minutes after you last hear thunder.

For more safety tips on other types of severe weather, look through our First Alert Weather Blog. Stay safe!

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