Thunderstorms and Lightning

All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm makes lightning. Lightning strikes are one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. Most lightning victims survive. People struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term symptoms. The Southeastern United States is very likely to have lightning and thunderstorms, especially in the summertime when people are outdoors.

Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the rain area in a thunderstorm. That’s about the distance you can hear thunder. When a storm is 10 miles away, it may even be difficult to tell a storm is coming. If the sky looks threatening, people should take shelter even before they hear thunder.

Other dangers linked with thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more deaths than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard.

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Before Thunderstorm and Lightning

  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and injure people or damage property.
  • Delay outdoor activities.
  • Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Get inside a home, building or hard top vehicle (not a convertible). Although you may be hurt if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If you can’t find shutters, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives. 
    • If in a forest – Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
    • If in an open area – Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.
    • On open water – Get to land and find shelter immediately.
    • If you are in an area and feel your hair stand on end – Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your head, and place your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and lessen your contact with the ground. DO NOT LIE FLAT on the ground.

During Thunderstorms or Lightning Storms

If thunderstorm and lightning are occurring in your area, you should:

  • Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electric for recharging. You can use cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets.
  • Don’t go near electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers. Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Stay away from the plumbing. Don’t wash your hands, take a shower, wash dishes or do the laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors. Stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors. Don’t lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
  • Try to stay away from hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Don’t touch anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Try not to touch metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

After a Thunderstorm or Lightning Strike

If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 9-1-1 for medical help as soon as possible. Check the items listed below when you try to give aid to a victim of lightning:

  • Breathing - if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Heartbeat - if the heart has stopped, give CPR.
  • Pulse - if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning came into and left the body. Be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing and eyesight.

After the storm passes think to:

  • Never drive through a flooded roadway. Turn around, don’t drown!
  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of bad thunderstorms.
  • Keep listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or local radio and television stations for news and orders, as right to use roads or some parts of the area(s) may be blocked.
  • Help people who may need special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or those with access or functional needs.
  • Stay away from downed power lines. Report these lines quickly to the power company.
  • Watch your animals closely. Keep them under your direct control.

More Information

More information about how to plan and get ready for thunderstorms can be found at:

Listen to Local Officials

Learn about the emergency plans that have been made in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the orders given by local emergency management officials.