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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lightning strikes kill about 50 Americans each year and injure hundreds more.1 Thunderstorms and lightning can be a threat no matter where you live or what plans you’ve made. It’s crucial to understand how to stay safe during thunderstorms and lightning and also what you need to do to be prepared.
- Thunderstorm & Lightning Facts
- 5 Ways To Prepare
- Indoor Safety
- Outdoor Safety
- How To Protect Your Home
- Thunderstorm Safety Tips (Infographic)
- How Do Thunderstorms Form? (Video)
- Get Prepared For All Weather Events
There were 112,310,896 lightning strikes in the U.S. in 2019, including cloud and ground flashes.2
Of those, the top-ranked states that experienced the most strikes were:
- Texas: 16,032,609
- Kansas: 8,299,321
- Nebraska: 6,166,469
- Oklahoma: 6,039,749
- Florida: 5,271,987
- Missouri: 4,612,813
- South Dakota: 3,706,174
- Iowa: 3,603,519
- Colorado: 3,499,283
- New Mexico: 3,436,976
Every state in the U.S. experienced lightning in 2019, however, the three biggest “hot spots” were in Tornado Alley and along the Gulf and East coasts.
Texas likely tops the list mainly due to its vast size. Texas also has two of the top five U.S. counties with the highest number of total strikes (Pecos, TX and Brewster, TX).
Kansas had the second-highest number of total strikes, saw 25% more lightning than past years and had the highest number of flashes per square mile.
Nebraska rounds out the top three lightning states, with Cherry, NE, ranking as the most active county (highest number of strikes).
Florida, which historically sees a high number of strikes, saw 30% less in 2019 compared to the previous year. Still, the Sunshine State ranks second for the highest density of lightning per square mile and has two counties with the largest strike count (Palm Beach, FL and Collier, FL).
Thunderstorm & Lightning Facts
Thunderstorms are extremely dangerous, always include lightning, often have powerful winds and can produce hail, flash flooding and tornadoes. They’re common during spring and summer but occur most frequently in the U.S. during July and August.
Lightning is very powerful, and a single bolt is five times hotter than the sun’s surface. It can strike as far as ten miles away from the nearest rainfall.
Lightning is the leading cause of death and injury when it comes to weather. You can survive a lightning strike but will likely see the effects of it in your body for the rest of your life. Long-term effects can include headaches, memory loss, nerve damage, hearing and vision impairment, chronic pain, respiratory issues, seizures, dizziness and even depression.
You are not safe if you’re outdoors when thunderstorms and lightning are nearby. You must seek shelter immediately.
You need to know how to prepare for thunderstorms and lightning so you can stay safe. Keep these five things in mind at all times.
- Recognize the risk for your area: Some places have a higher risk of storms, but they can occur anywhere.
- Stay aware of weather conditions: Always monitor local weather conditions with a weather radio, television or smartphone app.
- Know the signs of approaching storms: Be on the lookout for dark towering clouds, the rumbling sound of thunder in the distance and flashing lightning.
- Always have a plan for shelter: Whenever you are outdoors, be aware of nearby shelter options in case you need them.
- Keep the 30/30 rule in mind: If there are less than 30 seconds between a lightning flash and the sound of thunder, lightning is a threat. Another good rule of thumb — wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before you leave your shelter.
Being indoors is the best place to be when a storm occurs. However, you still need to know what to do during a thunderstorm in a house or building. Here are some key points for safety.
- Stay off of landline telephones with a cord
- Don’t touch any electrical equipment
- Stay away from plumbing
- Never take a shower or bath during a storm
- Avoid windows and doors
If you’re stuck outside during a thunderstorm, you’re not safe. However, there are things you can do to be as prepared and protected as possible. Follow these tips to help keep you safe.
- Stay out of open areas like fields or a hilltop
- Avoid tall, isolated trees
- Spread out if you are in a group to minimize injury
- Stay away from water, wet items and metal objects
- Avoid partial shelters
- Only get in a car if it is a hardtop and you can roll up the windows
Remember, if you have anywhere you can go indoors, that’s where you should go.
Your home is also at risk when thunderstorms and lightning are a threat, but there are several measures you can take to protect your home.
- Keep trees trimmed and cut down the trees that are at risk of damaging your home. Strong winds and lightning can knock trees over.
- If you know a thunderstorm is coming, unplug your electronics and appliances to prevent electrical damage.
- Add surge protectors, lightning rods and lightning protection systems (several lightning rods connected to grounding wires 20 feet underground and are professionally installed) to your home. These add an extra layer of protection during a storm.
- You should also check on your homeowners and renters insurance, so you know what types of storm damage is covered. You also need to think about how your insurance covers water damage since that can be an issue with thunderstorms too.
- If you know a thunderstorm with high winds is approaching, secure loose outdoor items, such as patio chairs or pots, so they don’t become flying debris.
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This 3-minute video from National Geographic explains how thunderstorms form and what causes lightning and thunder to occur.
In addition to thunderstorms, there are lots of other weather events that can harm you, your family and your home. Be sure to check out our tips on winter safety, hurricane preparedness and tornado safety to make sure you’re ready for all the inclement weather and natural disasters that may come your way.
Have you ever been caught off guard by a thunderstorm?
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