For some, lightning storms are fun events, and even soothing to a few people -- but to those who have lived through the more dangerous sort of thunderstorm, they’re nothing short of terrifying.
Severe thunderstorms can create hail, cause flash flooding, tornadoes, and gusts of wind that can reach over 50 MPH. And in addition to the physical dangers, thunderstorms can also terrorize animals and children -- and even some adults!
In November of 1994, a severe Thunderstorm caused damage and flash flooding in Egypt -- resulting in just under 500 people losing their lives.
Another scary, real experience comes to us from a young man on the East Coast. During a severe thunderstorm, he and all his neighbors lost power, and were without a way of communication for days.
Experience: Holding a 4 foot metal pipe in a thunderstorm
When I was a kid I took a job moving sprinkler pipe. Some lines we're made out of 40ft alluminum joints carried by hand from one position to another. Man + Pipe = Human Lightning Rod
I got caught in the middle of a large field with a large thunderstorm rolling in. I thought I had time to finish the line but the storm moved in quicker than expected. I was so close to the end I decided to chance it even though I could see lightning off in the distance.
I was carrying one of the final pieces through the driving rain when a bold of lightning lashed out less than a mile away. The thunder was so loud. I looked down at the 40ft metal lightning rod I was carrying and fear filled me. I threw down the pipe and sought shelter until the storm was well over for 30 minutes.
Terrifying experience of stupidity :)
Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to prepare for thunderstorms and stay safe.
To get started, learn your area’s risk level -- do thunderstorms happen often? Are they severe or mild? Figuring out your risk level will help you prepare.
Before the storm approaches, make sure to cut down or trim any trees that may fall onto your home during the storm. And a few good investments you might want to consider are lightning rods, surge protectors, or a lightning protection system to help protect your home.
It's recommended you unplug any important electronics before the storm hits, like computers and expensive appliances that may be fried if the power suddenly goes out. They also recommend staying inside and avoiding swimming during the storm.
Discussing a plan with your family will ensure that everyone is well-informed for when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
Evacuation is rarely ever needed for thunderstorms alone -- so it’s important to listen to an emergency radio for other warnings. You never know when a hurricane, flood, or hail may strike. It’s important to customise your emergency plan to fit your needs, but if you’re looking for a basic plan, this is what you need.
If you cannot take shelter and are caught out in the storm, it’s important that you don’t panic. There are a few tips that can help protect you from being struck by lightning.
Your chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 500,000, with lightning killing 6,000 people per year. Lower the odds by staying alert, and keeping an eye on the storm. Try to keep an eye on where the lightning is striking, and get as far away from it as you can.
If you’re caught in the middle of the storm, stay away from lone trees, objects that conduct electricity, lakes, ponds, and other large bodies of water. Lightning is more likely to strike those areas.
Crouch low and stay near the ground, tucking your head down and placing your hands over your ears. Never lie flat on the ground, and remember: your first priority is to find a place to take shelter.
Even in emergencies, you should avoid taking shelter by a cliff or rocky overhang.
One of the biggest challenges you may face during severe storms is anxiety in yourself, your children, or your pets.
Stress is terrible for your body, and when you’re afraid, your judgement and ability to stay safe can become compromised. Try to keep calm during the storm, or offer comfort to those suffering from anxiety.
If your child is afraid or upset because of the storm, one of the best things to do is keep your calm, and explain to them what is happening without frightening them even further. You can also hug it out, give them a stuffed animal and blanket for comfort, or play a game or fun activity to get their mind off of what’s happening outside.
If your pet, such as a dog, cat, bird, or ferret, is afraid of the thunder, use methods similar to calming children to help them, too. Give them a safe area to retreat to and hide in, or cuddle them. You may provide them more comfort than you realize.
You can also try to drown out the noise from the storm by turning on the TV or radio.
And finally, if the storm gives you anxiety, know that it’s completely normal, even in adults, and is a valid fear. Just know that you can minimize your risk by taking the proper precautions before and during the thunderstorm.
Take a few deep breaths and remember that you’re being as safe as you can -- and be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re afraid.
You can drown out the noise of the storm by watching TV or listening to music, distracting yourself with a game, or reaching out to a friend or loved one for support. If the anxiety continues, you may want to speak to a doctor or therapist about other options to ease your fears.
Emergency Plan (ready.gov)
Emergency Contact Info (ready.gov)
Emergency Plan for Schools (ready.gov)
And now, welcome to one of the most important parts of preparing for a thunderstorm: putting together an emergency kit packed with the right gear.
And since severe thunderstorms are occasionally accompanied by other disasters, the odds are you already have supplies in other kits that will get you through severe thunder and lightning storms, too.
Consider this list of basic supplies you're going to need.
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