Thunderstorms can be beautiful, with the echoing rumble of thunder, the illuminating flashes of lightning, and the quenching effects of water on a parched landscape. However, thunderstorms carry with them an element of danger. According to Ready.gov, a website maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, these storms can be dangerous due to the threat of electrocution, hail damage, flash flooding, and tornadoes. The first piece of advice when a thunderstorm approaches is “When thunder roars, go indoors!” In addition to heading indoors, note these 12 activities to avoid during a thunderstorm.
12. Standing Under a Tree
If you are outside when a thunderstorm rolls in, avoid taking shelter under a tree. Since thunder is accompanied by lightning, this can be a dangerous place to hang out. If lightning strikes a tree while you are standing beneath it, the electrical current can run down the tree. As electricity travels through the tree, the current can be transmitted to your body. The Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests this is because your body is a better conductor of electrical current than a tree is.
11. Standing Outside in Open Spaces
In your quest to avoid standing beneath a tree, you may be tempted to remain in an open, grassy area. Unfortunately, this can be even more dangerous than standing beneath a tree. When you stand in a flat area, you become the tallest object in that location. If lightning were to strike, you would now be the tallest, most convenient object for that lightning to hit. Always get yourself into a car or building when you hear thunder or see lightning.
10. Lying Flat on the Ground
If you are unable to get to a building, you may be tempted to lie flat on the ground, rather than standing tall in an open area. However, the CDC warns against lying flat on the ground since deadly electric currents can travel across the ground from as far as 100 feet away. Instead, the CDC advises crouching down low to make yourself smaller. Next, tuck your head down and place your hands over your ears. The goal is to be as low as possible without exposing a large section of your body to possible electrical currents traveling across the ground.
9. Congregating in a Large Group Outside
The phrase regarding safety in numbers does not apply if you are gathered outside during a thunderstorm. If you are outside in a large group when a storm hits, have members of your group separate. Breaking up a group minimizes the number of injuries that occur if lightning strikes. If you are able, crouch low and make your way to an enclosed building, vehicle, or structure. Furthermore, avoid leaning on concrete walls or lying on concrete floors or foundations. Concrete structures contain metal supports that may conduct electricity through the concrete and cause you injury.
8. Standing Near a Window
Once you are safely indoors, avoid standing near a window. The sight of a thunderstorm with its amazing light show, gusts of wind, and powerful downpour of water can be fascinating. However, standing near a window to take in the view puts you at risk of electrocution from the metal components of window frames and hardware. Stay well away from windows, doors, concrete walls, and concrete floors. Furthermore, refrain from stepping outside onto a porch or patio. The National Weather Service states that when you are able to hear thunder, lightning is within striking distance.
7. Making Calls on a Corded Phone
While taking shelter from a storm, you may want to let family and friends know you are safe. If you need to make phone calls, avoid using a corded landline telephone to do so. Corded phones can conduct electricity in the event of a lightning strike. Instead, use a mobile phone or a cordless phone.
6. Using Household Appliances
During a thunderstorm, a flash of lightning that strikes your home may cause electrical currents to travel through the wiring of your home. To stay safe, avoid using any electronic devices or appliances that are plugged into an electrical outlet. This includes televisions, computers, washers, dryers, stereos, ovens, and home theater equipment. Instead, you may wish to take advantage of the opportunity to pass the time reading a book, playing a board game with family members, or telling stories.
When a thunderstorm arrives, get out of the swimming pool, away from the beach, or out of your hot tub. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity, so if you are swimming when a storm hits, get out of the water quickly and into a safe, dry building. If you are at a water park, get yourself away from water sources and into a building.
4. Washing Dishes
Washing dishes during a thunderstorm is a bad idea for the same reason that swimming is a bad idea. If lightning strikes while you are scrubbing your pans, you may end up with a nasty shock. When a thunderstorm hits, take a break from this chore and wait out the squall. If you are longing to clean, stick to sweeping wooden floors or making your bed. Better yet, relax and listen to the powerful sounds of nature. Of course, if the sound of thunder strikes terror in your heart, a good pair of earplugs may be a better choice.
If a thunderstorm strikes while you are enjoying a long, hot shower or relaxing bubble bath, it is advisable to pull the plug. Avoid risking electrocution and get yourself out of the shower spray or pool of water. If you know you will have to run out the door the moment it is safe, freshen up with face wipes and a spritz of body spray. Try a dry shampoo or tie your hair up in a cute scarf.
2. Exiting Your Car
If you are in your car when a thunderstorm strikes, stay in the vehicle until it is safe to exit. An enclosed, metal-topped car with the doors and windows closed will offer protection against lightning strikes. Accuweather reports that the metal exterior of the car will funnel electricity around the vehicle. Do be careful to avoid touching any metal parts inside the vehicle. The National Lightning Safety Institute recommends pulling safely to the side of the road, turning your engine off and hazard lights on, and waiting out the storm with your hands in your lap.
1. Going Outside Too Soon After a Storm
If you have been anxiously waiting for a storm to pass so you can get outside, avoid heading out the door too soon. The CDC promotes the 30-30 Rule to help determine when it is safe to be outdoors. If you are outside and see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, you need to head inside. Once inside, do not head back out until you have not heard thunder for at least 30 minutes. When heading into the house, don’t forget to bring your pets inside with you to wait out the storm in safety.