While many natural disasters have seasons, a thunderstorm could strike at any time. It’s important to know what to do if a severe thunderstorm is declared in your area.
Why prepare for thunderstorms?
A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour.
Surprisingly, lightning from thunderstorms kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. The thunderstorm can produce heavy rainfall causing flash floods or high winds that will damage your home, blow down trees, utility poles and more.
Preparations before a thunderstorm
Local warning systems. Take time to learn what warning systems are in place to let you know of approaching storms. You can obviously get severe thunderstorm warnings from your television or radio. However, you can also subscribe to Facebook and Twitter accounts from The Weather Channel, the National Weather Service, NOAA, or your local weather services.
It’s important to know the difference between a Severe Thunderstorm Watch and Warning. A watch means that thunderstorms are possible in your area. It pretty much means that you should stay alerted to see if a warning is issued. A warning means that there is imminent danger to life and property.
Prepare your yard and house. You’ll want to make sure that you keep your yard in good condition. Dead branches on trees can be very susceptible to storms and end up damaging your home. You can also make sure that shingles and other objects on your home are in proper working order and won't end up causing more damage.
You’ll also want to make a list of the things that you’ll need to bring indoors if a storm hits. You might even consider practicing this with your family. You can list out responsibilities of who is going to find the dog, who will bring in lawn chairs, etc.
Emergency location. If things get really messy, you’ll need a place inside your home that is away from windows, skylights and other glass structures. The center of the home is usually a good spot to protect your family.
What to do during a thunderstorm
Stay indoors. If you hear a severe thunderstorm warning, be sure to stay inside as much as possible. Many times, people who are struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring. If you’re close enough to hear thunder or see lightning, you’re close enough to be hurt.
If you are driving or stuck outdoors, avoid high places. If you’re in a vehicle, stay inside of it. Don’t stand next to a tall tree to get out of the rain. Avoid picnic shelters, sheds, fences and other metal objects.
Don’t use plumbing. During a thunderstorm, it’s best to avoid taking showers, baths or use other plumbing. You can also avoid using electrical equipment by using battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
What do do after a thunderstorm
Stay away from floods. If you drive up to a flooded road, don’t try and cross it. Just turn around. Many people think they can just get a running start and power through the flooded road. Don’t make this mistake.
Listen. Continue to listen to the radio or local weather stations for updates. You might think that a storm is over when it’s really not.
Help others. Once you’re sure that the storm has passed, make sure that those around you are OK. Since you are so well prepared, you’ll be able to help neighbors, the elderly and others clean up from the storm.