Tips to Stay Safe in a Severe Thunderstorm
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms slammed parts of the Midwest on Wednesday and is expected to continue today as well. The storms are believed to be with the potential for widespread damaging wind gusts from the southern Great Lakes to the Ohio Valley. On Wednesday, the severe weather spawned several reported tornadoes and dumped torrential rainfall. Twisters were reported across Illinois Wednesday evening while scattered strong to severe thunderstorms are expected to continue through the weekend. We all are well aware of the devastation that tornadoes can produce but simultaneously one must not undermine the threat thunderstorms pose. They can be deadly as every thunderstorm produces lightning which kills more people every year than tornadoes. Moreover, heavy rains from thunderstorms may lead to flash flooding while hail and strong winds can also prove to be dangerous. Here are a few simple yet extremely handy tips that can help you stay safe when stranded in the midst of a severe thunderstorm.
1 – Know Your Watches and Warnings
A severe thunderstorms watch informs the public about when and where thunderstorm is likely to occur and is mainly geared towards raising public awareness. A severe thunderstorms warning, on the other hand, tells you that violent weather has been spotted and informs of the imminent danger to life and property for those in the storm’s path. So, you should stay vigilant and pay close attention to any watches and warnings issued by the competent authority; i.e. National Weather Service (NWS) for your location. A portable radio for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alerts and updates can be pretty useful in this regard. Since severe weather warnings and watches are issued on county basis so know your county of residence and also the names of major cities near you.
2 – Postpone Outdoor Activities
In case of an imminent storm, postpone any outdoor activities as it will give you a maximum opportunity to avoid being caught in any precarious situation because of the bad weather. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning so staying indoors or inside a shelter would be the most intelligent thing you do! Pay attention to the sky, look for flashes of lightning, increasing winds etc. which might be indicators of an approaching thunderstorm.
3 – Things to Do If Inside a Building
When you are at home or inside any other building for that matter, as the storm draws near, draw blinds and shades over windows. Shades will protect the window panes from shattering inside the home by the objects blown away by the wind. If your building is surrounded by trees, it will be preferable to take refuge in the basement of the building. Avoid using the telephone or any other electrical appliances. It’s safer to turn off the air conditioner as electrical surges from lightning can overload the compressor and hence can result in a costly repair. Seek shelter in the lowest level of your room or go into the smaller innermost room in your house while taking care to stay away from windows and glass doorways. Never even think of leaving a building to escape a tornado! It’s a lot safer to stay indoors for at least half an hour after hearing the last clap of thunder.
4 – Things to Do If Stranded Outdoors
Try and get inside a nearby building while doing your best to stay away from any windows. Long span roof buildings are never a reliable bet to take refuge in, in the event of a violent thunderstorm as these buildings are supported by outside walls and often collapse when hit by a tornado. If you are not able to find any safe building near your current location, then crouch for protection next to a formidable structure or lie down with your head covered with arms in a low lying area. Also avoid taking shelter in structures located in open areas as these become targets for lightning. In addition, tall structures such as trees, towers, power lines etc. are also open targets for lightning so it’s always safe to avoid being in their vicinity.
5 – Things to Do When Driving through a Thunderstorm
Pull over your vehicle on the shoulder of the road away from any tall structures or trees as during a storm there’s always a danger of trees being uprooted. Stay in your vehicle while turning on the emergency flashers as you will be much safer from lightning inside a car as compared to being out in the open. Crouch down below the vehicle’s window and avoid any contact with any metallic object. If you think that you’ll be better off making your way out of the storm, take care to avoid flooded roadways and streets. Keeping looking for flooding at highway dips, bridges and low lying areas.
6 – Things to Do When Someone Is Struck by Lightning
If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.
7 – Things to Do When Threat of Large Hail Prevails
When a thunderstorm warning mentions threat of large hail, it is always safer to move your vehicles inside a garage or under some shelter. But please note that a taking shelter under a highway overpass is a terrible choice in the event of an imminent tornado if stuck outdoors.