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How to Stay Safe in a Thunder and Lightning Storm

How to Stay Safe in a Thunder and Lightning Storm

Lightning injures around 180 people a year across Canada and kills two to three.

Terri Lang, an Environment Canada Meteorologist, says that “...lightning kills and injures more Canadians than tornadoes do. The focus should sort of be less on tornadoes, even though they are scary, and sort of more awareness that lightning itself is very dangerous.”

The danger of thunder and lightning can be minimized with safety precautions.

Seek shelter at the first signs of a storm

One-third of people who are injured or killed by lightning are struck after the storm and one-third before. This indicates that people are not seeking shelter soon enough and leaving shelter too quickly.

Lightning can travel more than 20 km from the storm. According to Discover Humboldt, “Once you seek shelter, you should remain in it for 30 minutes after the last peal of thunder is heard.”

“The first and most important thing to remember is that if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning. Take shelter immediately, preferably in a house or all-metal automobile (not convertible top),” says the Government of Canada.

Canadian Red Cross advises to seek shelter immediately if there are less than 30 second between lightning and thunder.

How to stay safe in a thunder and lightning storm inside

If you are inside during a thunder and lightning storm, stay away from objects that conduct electricity and do not go near windows.

  • Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch them.
  • Use only cordless or battery-operated devices. The Government of Canada explains that “the electrical current from the lightning strike will travel through wires and cords using the path of least resistance. Electrical current will follow metal pipes and wires until it reaches the ground (or you, if you are connected through them).”
  • Do not take a shower, do laundry, or wash dishes during a storm because water will conduct electricity if your house is struck by lightning.

How to stay safe in a thunder and lightning storm outside

If you are unable to seek shelter indoors during a thunder and lightning storm, take safety precautions until the storm passes.

  • One of the most important ways to stay safe is to make sure you are not the tallest point in an open area. The Government of Canada explains that “swinging a golf club, or holding an umbrella or fishing rod can make you the tallest object and a target for lightning.” Find shelter in low-lying areas but watch out for flooding.
  • Do not park near tall objects that could fall over if you are in your car and do not get out if there are downed power lines.
  • Get to shore quickly if you are boating or swimming.
  • Stay away from water and metal objects like bicycles and motorcycles, fences, golf clubs and carts, and lawnmowers.
  • If you are in a forest, find shelter under a thick growth of small bushes or trees in a low-lying area.
  • You are safe inside your car. If you are driving, find a safe place to pull over and turn on your emergency flashers. Do not touch metal surfaces inside or on the outside of your vehicle.
  • If you are caught in an open field, “kneel on the ground with your feet together, your hands on your knees and your body bent forward,” says Canadian Red Cross.
  • Do not shelter near fences, trees, or other tall objects.
  • If you know a storm is coming, postpone outdoor activities. “Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring,” explains Canadian Red Cross.