AUSTIN (KXAN) — The National Weather Service wants to build a weather-ready nation where all are prepared for a variety of weather-related hazards. All thunderstorms share a dangerous threat: lightning.
Lightning is unpredictable, occurring at any time and striking up to 10-15 miles away from the storm. Are you weather-ready?
Now is the time to make sure you know how to stay safe when severe weather threatens. June 20-26 has been designated National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
When thunder roars, head indoors!
If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. It could be sunny out and you could still be struck. Lightning strikes the ground around 25 million times each year across the United States, and it kills roughly 25 people on average per year. Lightning deaths occur most frequently during the summertime months when people are outside enjoying the sun or working while the weather is good.
Not only do the number of outdoor activities increase in the summer, but also the frequency of thunderstorms. During the winter months when storms are less common, lightning fatalities take a noticeable dip. However, lightning remains a dangerous threat at all times as it only takes one strike to cause life-changing injuries. And the largest age group to be struck by lightning are ages between 20-29.
The activity that leads to the most amount of lightning-induced fatalities is water-related activities, a whopping 33% of all fatalities, making it very relevant for Central Texans who thrive on lakes and swimming during our hot summer months.
Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm
Unfortunately, there is no place outside that is safe from lightning. The only safe place to be when lightning is occurring is either inside a building or an enclosed automobile.
Don’t get caught off guard
We say it time and time again for a very important reason — stay weather aware. Before heading out, get an updated forecast. Stay tuned to NOAA weather radio, check National Weather Service websites, go to our website to get a forecast, or download our KXAN First Warning Weather app on your cell phone for the latest forecast.
If thunderstorms are in the forecast, consider planning an alternate indoor activity, or if you still plan to be outside, make a plan which will allow you to quickly get to a safe shelter if a storm should develop. Being weather aware could help save your life.
What if you are caught outside and there is no shelter nearby?
What can you do to reduce your chances of being injured or killed by lightning if no safe shelter is nearby? Unfortunately, in this scenario, there is not much you can do. The best thing to do is move away from tall isolated objects like trees. Stay away from wide-open areas. Stay as low as possible with your feet close together if lightning is nearby. If you are with a group of people, spread out, that way if someone is struck by lightning, the others can offer first aid.
Indoor lightning safety
The dangerous electrical current associated with a lightning strike typically enters a structure through wires, cables or pipes that connect to the building from the outside. Lightning can also directly enter into a structure through an open window, door or garage door. Once in a structure, the dangerous current can travel through the electrical, phone, cable and plumbing systems and through metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.
Corded electronic devices are the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. These include personal computer keyboards, game consoles, and corded phones. Other injuries have occurred when people were close to televisions which connect to an outside cable or satellite system. Open windows, doors and garage doors allow for a direct strike to enter a home, so make sure all windows and doors are closed when lightning is occurring. Never watch a lightning storm from a porch or open garage door.
It is very important to stay away from any plumbing when lightning is occurring outside. This includes sinks, bathtubs and showers. When lightning is occurring, do not hand wash dishes, do not give kids a bath, and do not take a shower. It is best to wait to do laundry until after the storm goes by as washers and dryers are connected to both the electrical and plumbing systems.
Source: The National Weather Service