All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. In the United States, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed each year by lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.
Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities—more than 140 annually—than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard.
The following are facts about lightning:
• Lightning’s unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
• Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
• “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction!
• Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
• Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000, but could be reduced even further by following safety precautions.
• Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
If a thunderstorm is likely in your area:
• 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.
• 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.
• Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
• Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
• 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:
• Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area
• Hilltops, open fi elds, the beach, or a boat on the water
• Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas
• Anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles
NOTE: Anytime you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike). 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.
The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:
• Breathing - if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
• Heartbeat - if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
• Pulse - if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing and eyesight.
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8).