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When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Thunderstorms and lightning can be deadly. Lightning Safety Week is being observed from June 19 through the 25 to educate people about the dangers associated with lightning strikes, and the American Red Cross wants you to know what you should do to stay safe “When Thunder Roars”.

Thunderstorms and lightning occur more at this time of the year, but can happen year round. They happen more often in the afternoon and evening, but can strike at any time of the day or night. This past winter, people reported hearing thunder snow. In other words, these storms can be unpredictable.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), lightning injures an average of 300 people and causes about 80 fatalities each year. People struck by lightning can suffer permanent injuries or long-term symptoms including memory loss, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, irritability, weakness, fatigue, depression and others.

At any given time, nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring somewhere on earth. The Red Cross has important steps you and your loved ones can follow to stay safe during a thunderstorm:

  • Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.

As the storm approaches, take shelter in a building. If you are driving, pull off the roadway and park. Stay in the car with the windows closed and turn on the emergency flashers. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside of the vehicle. If you are inside, you should:

  • Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.
  • Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will prevent glass from shattering into your home.

If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are not safe. If someone is struck by lightning, check them for burns and other injuries. If the person has stopped breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR. If you are interested in being trained in first aid and CPR, you can call your local Red Cross chapter.

For more information on what to do to stay safe during these dangerous storms, visit the Red Cross web site, or the “When Thunder Roars” information posted by the National Weather Service.