What is a Thunderstorm and Lightning Hazard?
All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. In the United States, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed each year by lightning. Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail, and flash flooding.
Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.
Facts About Thunderstorms
- They may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines.
- Some of the most severe occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.
- Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
- Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
- About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe–one that produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado.
What Can I Do?
Some thunderstorms can be seen approaching, while others hit without warning. It is important to learn and recognize the danger signs and to plan ahead.
Before – Learn the Thunderstorm Danger Signs
- Dark, towering, or threatening clouds
- Distant lightning and thunder
Have disaster supplies on hand
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- First aid kit and manual
- Emergency food and water
- Nonelectric can opener
- Essential medicines
- Cash and credit cards
- Sturdy shoes
Excerpts from the FEMA website
Learn how to respond to a Tornado and Flash Flood
Tornadoes are spawned by thunderstorms and flash flooding can occur with thunderstorms. When a “severe thunderstorm warning” is issued, review what actions to take under a “tornado warning” or a “flash flood warning.”
Severe Thunderstorm WATCHES and WARNINGS
A severe thunderstorm watch is issued by the National Weather Service when the weather conditions are such that a severe thunderstorm (damaging winds 58 miles per hour or more, or hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter or greater) is likely to develop. This is the time to locate a safe place in the home and tell family members to watch the sky and listen to the radio or television for more information.
A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. At this point, the danger is very serious and everyone should go to a safe place, turn on a battery-operated radio or television, and wait for the “all clear” by the authorities.
- FEMA – Thunderstorms
- FEMA Storm Watch
- Lightning Safety Page
- NOAA Weather Alert Radio!