Thunderstorm Safety

Consider These Facts About Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are some of the most dangerous weather events in the US. All thunderstorms produce lightning, which is one of the top three causes of weather related deaths in the US. In fact, lightning kills approximately 50 people every year. Thunderstorms can also produce hail, tornadoes y floods. In some cases, hail can be the size of baseballs and travel at speeds of 100 mph. To help keep yourself, your family and property safe from the damaging effects of a thunderstorm, learn what to do before, during and after one strikes.

Before a Thunderstorm

Know the warning signs. Along with checking the weather channel and subscribing to updates for mobile weather apps, you can get a head’s up about a pending thunderstorm by watching for changes in the weather. Look for changes such as:
  • Large, puffy cumulus clouds
  • Darkening sky and clouds
  • Abrupt changes in wind direction
  • Sudden drop in temperature
  • Drop in atmospheric pressure
Prepare your property. Even if a thunderstorm doesn’t create a tornado, it can still produce wind gusts at speeds of over 58 mph. Strong winds can easily knock down trees and tree branches. Consider removing trees or branches that could fall in strong winds and damage your property.
Roofs made of ceramic, slate or shakes can easily be ruined in a hail barrage. If your house or business is in an area that experiences hailstorms, consider using stainless steel or asphalt shingles. Shingles made of metal will help prevent hail damage to your house, but can easily be dented. They can last up to 40 years, but may not look so good by that point.
You’ll also want to make several, short-term preparations when a thunderstorm is approaching:
  • Unplug as many corded appliances as you can to prevent them from being damaged or causing electrocution.
  • Move outdoor vehicles and outdoor furniture inside so it won’t be damaged. If it can’t be moved, try to secure it so it can’t blow away.
  • Shutter windows to protect them from hail. If you can’t shutter them, close curtains or drapes to prevent broken glass from blowing into your house or business.
  • Stay away from windows and glass doors.

During a Thunderstorm

Get to shelter. Finding shelter during a thunderstorm is crucial. It is always best to get inside a house or building during a thunderstorm, but if you’re caught outside there are several options you should know about.
  • In a Wooded Area. Take shelter under a cluster of small trees.
  • In a Field. Get to the lowest area you can. Stay away from single trees that are not clustered together or other tall structures.
  • In the Water. Get to the land immediately and take the best shelter from there.
  • In a Car. Raise the roof if your car is a convertible. Stay in the car unless you can get to better shelter such as a house or building. Do not touch any metal in the car as this can conduct electricity and cause electrocution.
Stay safe while driving in a hail storm. Stay in your vehicle if you’re caught in a hail storm. Only get out if you can safely get to another shelter, or if you are already under safer shelter. Safely pull over and stop if the hailstorm becomes so intense that it is damaging your car and you are near no other shelter. If possible, position your car so that the front windshield is facing the direction the hail is coming from. The front windshield of your car is more resilient than the side windows. It will be able to withstand more damage. Also, consider ducking down in your car and covering yourself with your arms or a blanket if the hailstorm is damaging your windows.
Stay away from hazards. The electrical wiring and appliances in your house or business can be dangerous during a thunderstorm. Do not use corded appliances or phones. Wireless phones are okay to use, however. Lightning can travel through concrete so avoiding standing on it or leaning against concrete walls. Also, be sure to avoid going near plumbing fixtures and using running water in your house or business as this too conducts electricity.

After a Thunderstorm

Wait for the storm to clear. Check with the weather channel to make sure that the storm has cleared in your area. Don’t assume that the storm has passed because you can no longer hear thunder. Storms move in bunches and you may be experiencing a minor break in the pattern.
Stay safe. You may be dealing with downed power lines, damaged property, flooded roads and power outages after a thunderstorm. Here a few tips to help you stay safe after the storm has passed:
  • Never drive on roads with flooded water. The road may have washed away under the water.
  • Keep your eyes open for any damage to power lines and stay away from them.
  • Never go into a house with standing flood water.
  • Report power outages and downed power lines to your electrical company.
Assess Damage. Once it has been confirmed that the storm has passed, safely assess the damage to your house or business. Be sure to check the roof for damage. If you’re uncomfortable getting on a ladder to check, you can move to a higher location (a neighbor’s second floor). From there, use a pair of binoculars to inspect the roof. Check to see if the shingles or chimney have been damaged. You will also want to take a look at any outdoor furniture and vehicles that were left out. Check for broken or cracked glass and dented metal. Photograph any damage and contact your insurance company immediately.
Thunderstorms may seem benign, but they can create devastating weather events such as hail and lightning. It’s important that you know how to stay safe and keep your family members or employees safe during a storm. This includes staying away from corded electronic devices, water and concrete during a storm as well as knowing where to take shelter if you’re outside when a storm hits. By following the advice in this article, you can help protect yourself, others and your property during a thunderstorm.