Are you prepared?... for thunderstorms & lightning

By Tina M. SandellApril 27, 2016

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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BENNING, Ga., (April 27, 2016) -- Thunderstorms and lightning go hand-in-hand as every thunderstorm produces lightning. Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Lightning is one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States, killing on average 51 people and injuring hundreds more per year. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.

If you are a resident of Georgia or Alabama you are familiar with the concept that warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for producing thunderstorms consisting of heavy rains for a brief period, usually from 30 minutes to an hour. Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding.

Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities (140 annually) than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard.

For thunderstorms or severe weather in the local area, below are a few suggestions for preparing prior, during and after a storm.

Prior to a storm:

• Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a storm.

• Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.

• Secure outside doors and close window blinds, shades or curtains.

• Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives.

Actions to take during a storm:

• Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for watches, warning and updates from local officials.

• Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electric for recharging. Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK for use.

• Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.

• Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage. If possible, prior to a thunderstorm, unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners.

• Avoid contact with plumbing as plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.

• Do not wash your hands, take a shower, wash dishes, or do laundry.

• Stay away from windows, doors, and stay off porches.

• Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

• Avoid contact with anything metal - motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, bicycles, tractors, farm equipment.

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. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.

If caught outside during a storm the best action to take is to get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible) as you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.

Following a storm:

Help people who are injured. If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 911 for medical assistance as soon as possible. Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately. If you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning check the following:

Breathing - if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,

Heartbeat - if the heart has stopped, administer CPR,

Pulse - if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Also be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing and eyesight.

Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.

Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information or instructions, as access to roads or some parts of the community may be blocked.