Atmosphere And Weather

Thunderstorm Safety



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Thunderstorms are dangerous affairs. Frequent, fairly-easily-managed affairs, true, but still dangerous. Those who don't know what to do in a thunderstorm can easily get struck down by a bolt of lightning from the heavens, and given that lightning typically carries millions of volts of electricity with it, well... needless to say, you don't want to get caught in a thunderstorm.

So where do you go? What's the magical place that will completely negate the risk of getting struck by lightning or suffering the ill effects of electricity passing through your body? Truth be told, there are probably very few places, if any, that are one hundred percent risk free. You'd have to go deep underground to ensure maximum protection from lightning, and depending on the layout of your surroundings even that might not be enough. That said the chances of getting lightning CAN be almost negated if you take certain steps.

The first place to eliminate when hiding from a thunderstorm is outdoors, in the open. Anyone caught in, say, an empty field, is likely to get zapped in a thunderstorm, especially if they're carrying anything metallic that will attract the lightning. (This is one reason why golf courses are often highlighted as dangerous during thunderstorms, as lightning will seek out golf clubs.) If you're stuck in a field, get close to the ground.

Slightly better than the open is a sheltered, but still exposed, area. Standing under a tree, for example, is not likely to save you from a storm. The lightning bolt will probably seek OUT the tree, in which case you're in a fair bit of trouble. Lean-tos and tents are similarly poor places to hide from a thunderstorm. The more shelter you can get, the better.

Next up is a vehicle, like a car. Yes, it's contained, you're not exposed to the elements, but you're also sitting in a tin can that can easily conduct electricity. Don't spend too much time in your car; instead, use it to get to the safest place you can be...

... which is in a house or a building. Yes, being at home is probably the safest location when riding out a thunderstorm, though any large structure will do as well. The more you've got around you that can absorb lightning blasts, the better, as the lightning will hit the building and then, hopefully, dissipate into the ground.

There is, of course, one further caveat when in your house: stay away from electronic devices that are running, anything metallic that runs through the house (like pipes), and any running water. All three of these things can conduct electricity, and if you're unlucky enough to be near one during a surge the electricity might jump to you - and then all your avoidance of the outside world will go to naught. When in doubt, stick to a nice, simple sofa and read a book until the storm passes.

Thunderstorms aren't a huge fear, overall, and the chances of something going wrong in your home during one are pretty slim. Very few people die from getting hit by lightning or via lightning-related mishaps. That doesn't mean you should exacerbate the matter, of course, so keep your wits about you and use common sense when confronting a storm. You'll survive every time.

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More about this author: Matt Bird

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