Thunderstorms are very common in our area and although they are most frequent during the summer months, they can occur any time during the year. Thunderstorms can produce strong winds or tornadoes, lightning, hail, and/or flash flooding. By following a few simple guidelines, you can protect yourself and your family from the dangers of severe weather.
Lightning is the result of charge buildup and discharge of energy between parts of the atmosphere within a thunderstorm. The air inside a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees F, even hotter than the surface of the Sun. We see lightning as it goes from cloud-to-cloud, within a cloud, cloud-to-air, but the deadliest are cloud-to-ground strikes. Lightning causes an average of 80 fatalities and 300 injuries each year where the majority of these are people who were caught outdoors as the storm struck.
- Postpone any outdoor activiites if thunderstorms are approaching.
- Seek shelter in a sturdy building or get inside a vehicle, avoiding any metal.
- Do not use a corded telephone. Cell phones and cordless phones are OK to use during a storm.
- If you are caught outdoors – try to get indoors as soon as possible. If you can’t, take shelter under a thick growth of small trees or move to a low spot such as a ravine or valley away from trees, fences, and poles, Never stand undera a tall, isolated tree, on a hilltop, in an open field, or in or near open water.
- If your hair begins to stand on end or your skin starts to tingle, squat to the ground on THE BALLS OF YOUR FEET. DO NOT LIE DOWN!! Place your hands over your head and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground.
Hail stones can be as small as pea, or larger than a softball. Strong updrafts (rising currents of air) carry water droplets to a height where freezing occurs. These ice particles get carried within the updrafts and downdrafts until they are too heavy to be supported, and fall to the ground. The presence of large hail are possible indicators of tornadic activity. There have been many cases of injury and even fatalities from hail storms as large stones can fall at speeds faster than 100 mph!
- Never go outside during a hailstorm. Get indoors and stay away from windows.
- Avoiding hail is difficult, however, parking vehicles in garages or under shelter BEFORE a storm hits will minimize damage to vehicles.
- If you are caught in your car à Vehicles offer good protection from hail up to about golf ball size, but significant windshield and body damage can result with hail larger than golf balls. If you can, pull off the road (out of the traffic lanes) under a bridge, awning, or gas station overhang.
- Slow down when driving – Large amounts of hail can cover roadways and create hazardous driving conditions like those seen during ice
The majority of thunderstorm damage comes from strong straight-line winds. Many cases these winds can exceed 100 mph and can cause similar damage to that a tornado can do. Manufactured homes are especially vulnerable to high winds and can be easily overturned and rolled if the home is not properly anchored with heavy steel straps. Even if tied down, these type of homes are still vulnerable to high winds and wind-borne debris.
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES TO TAKE:
- Cut down dead trees and clear weak branches on plants and trees from around your house.
- Limit yard objects or secure loose outdoor objects.
- Strengthen garage doors, entry doors, and roofs – High winds can push in garage doors or break windows on your home. Once it breaches your home, the wind has to exit can cause even more damage to your home. Increased uplift forces on the roof may lift the roof off of the house. Strengthening your garage doors, entry doors, and roofs can prevent high winds from damaging your homes.