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Lightning safety: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

Lightning safety: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

The next round of storms and showers arrives Wednesday evening. Even though we know a lot about lightning and its dangers, it still causes multiple deaths each year.

If you are outside and hear thunder, it is time to get inside. This is a top list of outdoor activities where lightning deaths occurred from 2006 to 2018. Topping the list is fishing, followed by a day at the beach. 80% of victims are male, while 20% of victims are female.

How do you know if you are close enough to a storm to be in danger to lightning? Just remember the saying, "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!"

If you can hear thunder, you should stop what you are doing immediately and go inside a building. Structures like a tent, baseball dugout, or picnic shelter are not safe.

If there aren't any nearby buildings, waiting for the storm to pass from inside your car can also be a safe option. The metal siding and roof of the car will protect you if it is struck by lightning.

If you are outside with no buildings or cars nearby, and absolutely have to stay outdoors, avoid standing near tall, isolated trees. Also avoid open fields and hilltops. Lightning is more likely to strike in these areas.

Lightning can strike the same place more than once. The Empire State Building is struck by lightning around 23 times each year.


Is there an easy way to tell the distance between you and a storm? Count the time between when you see lightning and when you hear thunder. Every five seconds you count means the storm is one mile away from you. This dispels the common misconception that for every second you count, you are one mile away from the storm.

Lightning travels extremely fast-- more than 700 miles per hour. Sound travels faster when it is warmer, but should not impact your counting too much when determining the storm's distance.

When you are roughly ten miles away from lightning, you are too far away to be able to hear the thunder. If you find yourself counting for more than 50 seconds, you probably won't end up hearing it. This is called heat lightning-- you can see distant lightning but cannot hear the thunder.

Remember anytime you hear thunder to go inside so you can stay safe from the storm.




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