What to do in a Severe Thunderstorm

What to do in a Severe Thunderstorm
Monica Cortez-KVEO
Weather Talk
Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 4:32pm

Despite their size, all thunderstorms are dangerous.

Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes.

Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding.

Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms.

We saw some strong storms about two weeks ago, which created a tornado watch in the Rio Grande Valley. But as the monsoon begins to rain on us, we will see more active weather come our way.

Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms. 

The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 20 to 30 minutes. 

Did you know: of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the United States, only about 10 percent are classified as severe. 

A National Weather Service WATCH is a message indicating that conditions favor the occurrence of a certain type of hazardous weather.

For example, a severe thunderstorm watch means that a severe thunderstorm is expected in the next six hours or so within an area approximately 120 to 150 miles wide and 300 to 400 miles long.

An NWS WARNING indicates that a hazardous event is occurring or is imminent in about 30 minutes to an hour. Local NWS forecast offices issue warnings on a county-by-county basis.

Here is what you need to know with the information provided by the Disaster Center.

  • You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder.

Because light travels so much faster than sound, lightning flashes can sometimes be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard.

When the lightning and thunder occur very close to one another, the lightning is striking nearby.

To estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm, count the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by five.

  • Many strong thunderstorms produce hail. Large hail, or flying glass it may have broken, can injure people and animals.

Hail can be smaller than a pea, or as large as a softball, and can be very destructive to automobiles, glass surfaces, roofs, plants, etc.

In a hailstorm, take cover immediately. Pets and livestock are particularly vulnerable to hail, so bring animals into shelter before storms begin.

  • Down bursts and straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms can produce winds 100 to 150 miles per hour, enough to flip cars, vans, and semi trucks.

The resulting damage can equal the damage of most tornadoes.

If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter the same way you would if a tornado were approaching your area.

Leave structures that are susceptible to being blown over in high winds, such as a mobile home.

Lastly, Thunder can be very scary for children, and it's incredibly important they learn safety tips fast in case a sever thunderstorm hits and your aren't around to protect them.

•Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely.
Many people take shelter from the rain, but most people struck by lightning are not in the rain! Postponing activities is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.

•If you see or hear a thunderstorm coming, go inside a sturdy building or car.
Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be.

If no building is nearby, a hard-top vehicle will offer some protection.

Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.

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.

Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.

•If you can't get inside, or if you feel your hair stand on end, which means lightning is about to strike, hurry to a low, open space immediately.
Crouch down on the balls of your feet, place your hands on your knees and lower your head. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize contact with the ground.

•Practice the "crouch down" position.
Show your kids how to practice squatting low to the ground to be the smallest target possible for lightning in case they get caught outside in a thunderstorm.

Show them how to place their hands on their knees and lower their head, crouching on the balls of their feet.

•Stay away from tall things like trees, towers, fences, telephone lines, or power lines.
They attract lightning. Never stand underneath a single large tree out in the open, because lightning usually strikes the highest point in an area.

•Stay away from metal things that lightning may strike, such as umbrellas, baseball bats, fishing rods, camping equipment, and bicycles.
•Turn off the air conditioner and television, and stay off the phone until the storm is over.
Lightning can cause electric appliances, including televisions and telephones, to become dangerous during a thunderstorm.

•Lastly stay away from running water inside the house; avoid washing your hands or taking a bath or shower.
Electricity from lightning has been known to come inside through plumbing.

So know you know, make sure to keep these tips handy for when a thunderstorm arrives in your area, you are well equipped and ready to go in order to stay safe and most importantly alive.


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