Staying safe when lightning strikes - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Staying safe when lightning strikes

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(Image Courtesy: MGN Online) (Image Courtesy: MGN Online)
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

With more and more people spending time outdoors enjoying the spring and summer warmth, it also means an increase in thunderstorm activity and with any thunderstorm comes lightning.

Meteorologist Don Maher has some ways to help keep you and your family safe when lightning is in the area.

The first is a very simple one and it's something you hear our First Warning Weather Team say over and over with the threat for thunderstorms. 

That's when thunder roars, head indoors.

If you can hear thunder, then you are close enough to be struck by lightning. 

According to the National Weather Service, the safest place for you to be during a thunderstorm is in a substantial building with plumbing and electricity.  The reason being that if lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity and eventually direct it into the ground. 

You want to wait at least 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder before you head back outside. Thirty minutes may seem like a long time, but it's necessary to be safe.

However, what if there's not a substantial building nearby where you can take shelter?  A hard top vehicle in another location you can take shelter in. 

While not as safe as being inside a building, it's certainly safer than staying outside.

Once inside the vehicle, you'll want to roll up with windows and then you'll want to stay away from anything that could conduct electricity, such as the ignition or any portable electronics you may have charging. 

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the rubber tires that are going to protect you from the lightning, but actually, the metal frame of the vehicle that will conduct the electric charge and run it eventually into the ground.

What if you happen to be caught outside during a thunderstorm?  Well, the first thing to realize is that there's really no safe place outdoors during a thunderstorm. 

That said - there are some things you can do to minimize your chance of being struck by lightning. 

First thing is you want to avoid open areas.  You don't want to be the tallest object in the area.  You'll also want to avoid isolated tall trees, as well as cell phone towers and utility poles.

Instead, find low spot, such as a ditch or depression.  Also, stay away from metal conductors, such as wires and fences as lightning can travel long distances through these conductors. 

Also, don't seek shelter in sheds, pavilions, tents, gazebos or dugouts as they don't provide adequate protection from lightning. 

Avoid bodies of water as well.  While water may not attract lightning, it is an excellent conductor of electricity, which means it can travel large distances. 

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy the warmer weather of spring and summer and also keep you and your family safe when thunderstorms are approaching.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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