Catawba County News

National Lightning Safety Awareness Week 2023

National Lightning Safety Awareness Week 2023

Published: June 16, 2023

When Thunder Roars, GO INDOORS!!!

Even though June 18-24, 2023 is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, lightning producing thunderstorms can occur year-round in Catawba County. Take a few minutes to brush up on some thunderstorm and lightning facts, so you and your family are better prepared.

  • Lightning is a leading cause of injury and death from weather-related hazards in the U.S. Although most lightning victims survive, they often have long-term, debilitating symptoms.
  • Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away.
  • If less than 30 seconds passes from when you see lightning and then hear thunder, you are in danger. That means you are less than 6 miles away.
  • Lightning doesn’t have a temperature, but can heat the materials it passes through. The air around lightning can be heated 50,000 °F, which is 5x the temperature of the sun’s surface.
  • A typical lightning flash is about 300 million Volts and 30,000 Amps (1/10 of one amps can kill a person).
  • Thunderstorms that produce lightning can also produce other hazardous conditions too; wind gust over 50 mph, hail, flash flooding and tornados.
  • No place outside is safe during a thunderstorm; not under a picnic shelter, under bleachers, in a dugout, under a tree, out in the open or on a porch.
  • Many lightning deaths occur after the storm has seemingly passed.

So what do you do with all of these facts? Simple, stay informed and have a plan.

  • Before heading out to enjoy outside activities, check the local weather reports. If there is a significant chance of thunderstorms in the forecast, consider postponing the outing, especially if you will be a long way from shelter, such as boating or hiking.
  • Install additional weather applications on your cell phone, and/or sign up for the Catawba County Community Notifications here
  • Identify study buildings near where you live, work or play, so you know where you can safely seek shelter.
  • When thunder roars go indoors. If you hear thunder, you are likely within the 10 mile range of the storm.
  • At a minimum, follow the 30/30 Rule. If 30 seconds or less has passed between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, immediately seek shelter in a sturdy structure with 4 walls. After the storm has passed, wait at least 30 minutes before going back outside.
  • While inside the sturdy structure:
    • stay away from doors and windows
    • avoid using running water
    • avoid contact with anything that is plugged into an outlet
  • If you are unable to take shelter in a sturdy building, shelter in a car with a metal roof.
    • Roll up the windows
    • Keep your hands in your lap and don’t touch anything metal.

It’s a misconception that the “tires” on a vehicle make it safe. Lightning will tend to travel along the metal outer shell and frame, going around the occupants inside, before discharging to the ground.

Stay informed about local weather forecast and adjust your plans accordingly. Have a safe and happy summer.

Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service