Environmental Clues and Thunderstorm Safety

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Environmental Clues

When skies darken or thunderstorms are forecast, look & listen for: 

  • Increasing wind.
  • Flashes of lightning.
  • Sound of thunder.
  • Static on your AM radio.

To estimate the distance in miles between you and the lightning flash, count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder and divide by five.

Advanced Weather Radar Sees "Inside" the Storm

Doppler Radars, which are being strategically deployed around the country, are capable of seeing "inside" a thunderstorm to detect hazardous weather conditions. New storms often form along the leading edge of the storm's cool-air outflow; this feature is able to be detected on Doppler Radar.

Thunderstorms & Lightning Safety

What YOU Can Do!

Before the Storm...

  • Know the county or parish in which you live and the names of nearby major cities. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county or parish basis.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended periods outdoors.
  • Watch for signs of approaching storms. 
  • If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA Weather Radio or AM/FM radio with you.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation. 
  • Check on those who have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.

When Thunderstorms Approach... 

  • Remember: if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately! 
  • Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. 
  • If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep windows up. 
  • Get out of boats and away from water. 
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.
  • Do not take a bath or shower.
  • Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
  • Get to higher ground if flash flooding or flooding is possible. Once flooding begins, abandon cars and climb to higher ground. Do not attempt to drive to safety. Note: Most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles.

If Caught Outdoors and No Shelter Is Nearby...

  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding. 
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees. 
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground. 
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately! 

Click here to find out how to stay informed about the storm!