May 17, 2013
The lightning season has begun across most of the United States and we're headed toward the deadliest time of the year. June, July, and August are the peak months for both lightning and lightning fatalities. Often, I am asked the question: What should a person do if they are caught outside in a thunderstorm? This is a difficult question to answer because, if you’re outside, there may be little or nothing you can do to prevent being killed or injured by a nearby lightning strike. Of course, if at all possible, get to substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle as quickly as you can. If you can't get to safety, you should avoid situations that increase the risk of being stuck: don't be out in an open area; don't stand under or near tall or isolated objects like trees; and don't lie flat on the ground.
If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, think about what you can do so it doesn't happen again. Always listen to the latest forecast and adjust your activities accordingly. If at all possible, plan outdoor activities for the morning hours when thunderstorms are less likely. If you do head out, have a plan so that you can get to a safe place in case a thunderstorm develops. While outside, keep an eye on the sky and be ready to head to safety at the first signs of a developing or approaching storm. Above all, remember that the sound of thunder (even a distant rumble), indicates that you are likely within striking distance of the storm and need to get to a safe place immediately. Once there, wait 30 minutes after the last thunder or lightning before returning outside. Remember…When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
Lightning Safety Specialist
National Weather Service, NOAA
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