A thunderstorm can be defined as a storm with thunder and lightning. Thunder can be very frightening since it roars very loudly. Thunder and lightning mainly occur during the warmer months during which there is atmosphere instability and there are cumulonimbus cloud formations. They occur when a warm air pocket at the ground level rises to collide with the cooler air above it. Lightning is a fast and strong electricity discharge from a storm to the ground usually originating from clouds. There are a lot of myths accompanying lightning, for example; that the tallest buildings are always struck by lightning. Another myth is that it doesn’t strike the same place twice. Neither of these is true.
Dangers of Thunder and Lightning
When hitting the ground, a single lightning bolt normally carries around 25,000 amps of electrical current. This is around two thousand three hundred times more electrical current than what is used in a washing machine. People prone to strikes are those who spend most of their time outdoors in unsheltered places, for example; golfers, farm workers, or hikers. While the majority of lightning flashes take place and stay bound within a storm cloud, about twenty percent of lightning makes contact with the ground. One should not only be worried about a direct hit, but a strike next to an individual is also worrying since it can be dangerous. Whenever lightning strikes there is a high amount of electricity in the surrounding environment.
How to Protect Yourself from a Thunderstorm
The first strategy in protecting yourself is to be prepared. Doing some research before heading outdoors is the best way to avoid being trapped in a storm. Check the weather in your area or planned destination via a weather app or a newspaper. Before a storm, one should unplug all the electrical appliances such as televisions because lightning sometimes causes power surges. If you are outdoors you should look for shelter as soon as possible to shield yourself from the storm. When there is a thundering roar, you are normally within range of a lightning strike. Even at ten miles distance from a storm’s center, lightning can strike.
What to Do When Staying Inside during a Thunderstorm
While indoors, stay away from windows, doors and skylights as strong winds can break and shatter glasses. In addition, the blinds and drapes of windows and doors should be kept closed. Closing them prevents shattered glass from flying around or blowing in. During a lightning strike, metal pipes conduct lightning. Therefore, it is advisable not to shower, do laundry, and wash your hands or dishes. Furthermore, during thunderstorms do not use cell phones or corded electronics such as computers or phones. Electrical wires are good conductors of lightning.
What to Do if Outside during a Thunderstorm
If you are outdoors, look for shelter as soon as possible. However, if there is no shelter near you, try to keep all electrical and metal devices at least twenty centimeters away from your body. If you are exposed to bare ground, squat close to the ground with your head tucked between your knees and place your hands on your knees. Do not lie on the ground and try not to touch the ground as much as possible. Remember to keep a safe distance away from poles and water and locate an area of open ground that is low lying. Avoid contact with water because water conducts electricity and lightning strikes that hit water that is far away can be dangerous to you if your body is in contact with the same body of water. Low-lying areas are safer as lighting mostly strikes high objects. Furthermore, while sheltering in a tent, one should stay away from metal poles because metal objects attract and conduct lightning. A very safe place to be is in a car, if possible, because lightning will be transmitted all over the metal parts of a vehicle and run to the earth via the tires.
After the storm, broken cables or power lines should be avoided. If a person has been struck by lighting they normally experience severe burns. Also, the strike affects the heart. Therefore, the pulse of the victim must be checked. As soon as a person is struck by lightning, call an emergency number in your country because help is needed as soon as possible. Before approaching the victim make sure there is no risk of you being struck by the lightning or residual electricity.
Where to Find Safe Places during a Thunderstorm
During a thunderstorm, it is more likely that most elevated, pointy objects standing alone in an open ground are highly likely to get struck but this is not a certainty. Sometimes even an open ground next to a tree can be struck. Therefore, the safest places for shelter during a thunderstorm include;
- A car or any enclosed metal device is the safest place because the electric current travels through the metal and is earthed on the ground.
- A ditch or a trench can be helpful since these are usually below the ground and it is hard for the lightning to strike these first.
- A group of shrubs that are of uniform height can be helpful.
It is always important to plan, even when there are non-lightning related storm threats. The key is to take action ahead of time while adjusting your daily routines when you hear of potentially frightening weather forecasts. To aid in lessening the risk, these plans can be put into practice:
- Practical measures such as trimming overhanging branches or removing clutter from downpipes and gutters are some simple tasks that can be performed to prevent anyone at home from harm during stormy conditions. Storm-proofing can make a significant difference between a disaster waiting to happen or peace and safety.
- If there is a prediction of a severe thunderstorm, you should park your car in a garage where it is protected.
- Driving during a storm can be dangerous. However, if you are caught in a storm while driving, head for a strong roof area, such as a garage. If there is no available shelter, pull to the side of the road and cover your face with clothing for protection from broken glass.
- The last, and essential thing to do, is to make sure that all loose items that could blow away are secured before a storm strikes.
A thunderstorm is a combination of both the lightning and the thunder. They can be frightening and even cause death from the lightning. People should always ahead before a storm happens to avoid being trapped in one. However, if a storm is suddenly upon you, you should look for safe places such as in uniform shrubs, inside a car or in a trench. While indoors, you should avoid using electrical appliances and specially coded ones as these all conduct electricity. When outdoors, look for flat, bare ground and squat. Avoid water surfaces as they transmit electrical currents from a far distance.