When Lightning Strikes

July 19, 2016 | Emergency Preparedness, Safety

By Emergency Preparedness

When thunder roars, go indoors

In Gallatin County, it’s that time of year when the hot, sun-filled afternoons are quickly overtaken by black rain clouds. Although it can be a relief to have some rain to help cool down these blazing hot days, oftentimes these summer storms come with thunder and lightning.

Lightning occurs in all thunderstorms and causes an average of 80 fatalities and 300 injuries each year. Most lightning fatalities and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening showers. In 2015, Montana had 307,545 cloud-to-ground lightning flashes!

In addition to that, many wildfires in Gallatin County are caused by lightning. When it strikes a tree or field of grass, it can easily ignite in no time.

Since summertime tends to be outdoor play time, here are some things you can do to minimize your risk of being struck by lightning:

  • There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.” Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the U.S.
  • When inside, do not touch anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet, plumbing, and corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe.
  • When indoors, keep away from outside doors and windows and do not lie on a garage floor.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. This is especially true in the western United States where thunderstorms sometimes produce very little rain.
  • Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide protection from lightning. The steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. DO NOT lie down.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.

Resources

http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/.

http://www.readygallatin.com/thunderstorms.php

For more information about safety, check out our Gallatin City-County Health Department safety pages here.

For more information about Emergency Preparedness, go here.