lightning and storm clouds above a cityscape

Responding to a Severe Thunderstorm

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to radio or television.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe thunderstorms have been spotted. There is an imminent danger to life and property.


  • May strike in clusters, lines, or individually
  • Are more likely when it is warm and humid
  • Produce heavy rain for 30-60 minutes


  • Extremely unpredictable
  • May strike as far as 10 miles away from heavy rain
  • Most lightning deaths occur outdoors in the afternoon or evening hours
  • Chances of being struck are 1 in 600,000


  1. If you are outdoors, avoid objects such as tall trees, sheds, metal structures, tractors, golf clubs and carts, bicycles, and utility poles. Avoid places such as hilltops, open fields, and beaches.
  2. If you are outdoors in a wooded area seek shelter under a thick of small trees
  3. If you are outdoors in an open area, go to a low place like a ditch or ravine, being mindful of flash flooding
  4. If you are outdoors on open water, get to land and find shelter immediately
  5. Postpone all outdoor activities and work
  6. Stay indoors or inside a non-convertible vehicle (Cars are not completely safe, but they are safer than being outside)
  7. Quickly secure large outdoor objects that could blow away and cause damage
  8. Shutter windows and secure doors
  9. Avoid using corded telephones
  10. Unplug appliances and electrical items like computers, air conditioners, and televisions to avoid serious damage


  1. Remember, lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and are safe to touch
  2. Call 911
  3. Determine if the person is breathing, and if not deliver mouth to mouth resuscitation
  4. Determine if the person has a pulse or heartbeat, and if not, deliver CPR
  5. Report their status to 911

The advice listed here is taken from Ready for Anything, our guide to responding to disasters and calamities big and small. For your free copy, visit our website.

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