Lightning Safety: Not-So-Shocking Advice
All thunderstorms produce lightning, making them dangerous when not approached with caution.
Thunderstorms are most frequent during July and August in New York State. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "lightning is one of the most underrated weather hazards," making every single thunderstorm a potential killer. The NOAA reports that lightning kills 20-30 people and injures hundreds more in the US every year.
Here is what to know before the next thunderstorm strikes.
"When lightning roars, go indoors." This well-known saying is the number one tip to keep in mind. Indoor, enclosed locations are the number spot to look for when a thunderstorm begins. According to the NOAA, a building with plumbing and electric wiring is optimal for shelter because if lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity more efficiently than a human body.
If this is not an option, a vehicle is a good alternative; just make sure the windows are closed. Avoid vehicles that are not enclosed, like convertibles, motorcycles, and golf carts.
Get as low on the ground as possible to avoid being the tallest thing in a thunderstorm when there are no vehicles or buildings to shelter inside. If there is a ditch or a depression in the ground, that's a great spot to shelter.
National Geographic warns that people should not lie down on the ground. Instead, they should crouch because lightning can move in and along the ground surface.
During a thunderstorm, avoid all bodies of water because they conduct electricity. If you are in a body of water, get to land and away from the water as fast as possible. Also, avoid open shelters like tents and pavilions because they are generally made from metal and conductive materials. The same applies to other objects that conduct electricity, like barbed wire fences and power lines.
It is also imperative to avoid waiting until the storm begins to seek shelter. Weather.gov says, "If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you."
The NOAA reports that most people struck by lightning are struck before and after the storm's peak. Lightning can hit more than 10 miles from where it is raining, making it essential to seek shelter as soon as a person hears thunder.
Once the storm ends, wait to leave your shelter. The rule of thumb is to wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder to ensure it is safe to leave.
Because lightning is so unpredictable, it is hard to guarantee complete safety from it. However, following lightning safety guidelines is the best bet to reducing the risk of injury and death.