Lightning Safety - Keeping safe Outdoors
Each year, about 400 children and adults in the U.S. are struck by lightning
while working outside, at sports events, on the beach, mountain climbing,
mowing the lawn or during other outdoor activities. About 67 people are
killed and several hundred more are left to cope with permanent
disabilities. Many of these tragedies can be avoided. Finishing the game,
getting a tan, or completing a work shift aren't worth death or crippling
Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration/Department of Commerce for photos
- All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous.
Lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes.
- Lightning often strikes as far as 10 miles away from any
rainfall. Many deaths from lightning occur ahead of the storm
because people try and wait to the last minute before seeking shelter.
- You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. If
you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough that it could strike
your location at any moment.
- Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death.
On average, 10% of strike victims die; 70% of survivors suffer serious
long term effects.
- Look for dark cloud bases and increasing wind. Every flash of
lightning is dangerous, even the first. Head to safety before that first
flash. If you hear thunder, head to safety!
- Blue Skies and Lightning. Lightning can travel sideways for
up to 10 miles. Even when the sky looks blue and clear, be cautious. If
you hear thunder, take cover. At least 10% of lightning occurs without
visible clouds overhead in the sky.
The Single Most Dangerous Place
Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. When
lightning is seen or thunder is heard, or when dark clouds are observed,
quickly move indoors or into a hard-topped vehicle and remain there until
well after the lightning storm ends. Listen to forecasts and warnings
through NOAA Weather Radio or your local TV and radio stations. If lightning
is forecast, plan an alternate activity or know where you can take cover
The U.S. lightning season is summer but lightning can strike year round!
The Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of the year
for lightning. In summer, more people are outside, on the beach, golf
course, mountains or ball fields. Outdoor jobs such as construction and
agriculture, and outdoor chores such as lawn mowing or house painting are at
their peak, putting those involved in danger.
Postpone activities promptly. Don't wait for rain. Many people
take shelter from the rain, but most people struck by lightning are not
in the rain! Go quickly inside a completely enclosed building, not a
carport, open garage or covered patio. If no enclosed building is
convenient, get inside a hard-topped all-metal vehicle. A cave is a good
option outside but move as far as possible from the cave entrance.
- Be the lowest point. Lightning hits the tallest object. In the
mountains if you are above treeline, you ARE the highest object around.
Quickly get below treeline and get into a grove of small trees. Don't be the
second tallest object during a lightning storm! Crouch down if you are in an
- Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of
lightning, or increasing wind, which may be signs of an approaching
- Listen for the sound of thunder. If you can hear thunder, go to a
safe shelter immediately.
- If you see or hear a thunderstorm coming or your hair stands on end,
immediately suspend your game or practice and instruct everyone to go inside
a sturdy building or car. Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be.
Avoid sheds, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, and bleachers. If no sturdy
building is nearby, a hard-top
vehicle with windows closed will offer some
protection. The steel frame of the vehicle provides some protection if you
are not touching metal. It is a myth that the tires on your
car can protect you from lightning. Even if there's a lien or
Title Max loan on your vehicle, protecting yourself from lightning is more important since your car will fare much better if struck than you would.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio. Coaches and other leaders should
listen for a tone-alert feature during practice sessions and games.
If you can't get to a shelter, stay away from trees. If there is
no shelter, crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from a tree as
it is tall.
Avoid leaning against vehicles. Get off bicycles and motorcycles.
Get out of the water. It's a great conductor of electricity. Stay
off the beach and out of small boats or canoes. If caught in a boat,
crouch down in the center of the boat away from metal hardware.
Swimming, wading, snorkling and scuba diving are NOT safe. Lightning can
strike the water and travel some distance beneath and away from its
point of contact.Don't stand in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber
Avoid metal! Drop metal backpacks, stay away from clothes lines,
fences, exposed sheds and electrically conductive elevated objects.
Don't hold on to metal items such golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis
rackets or tools. Large metal objects can conduct lightning. Small metal
objects can cause burns.
- Move away from a group of people. Stay several yards away from
other people. Don't share a bleacher bench or huddle in a group.
What to do if someone is struck by lightning:
- Call for help. Call 9-1-1 or your local ambulance service. Get
medical attention as quickly as possible.
- Give first aid. If the victim has stopped breathing, begin rescue
breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give
CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, address any other injuries.
- Check for burns in two places. The injured person has received an
electric shock and may be burned. Being struck by lightning can also cause
nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight. People
struck by lightning carry no electrical charge that can shock other people.
You can examine them without risk.
CREDIT TO: National Weather Service and NOAA website for
creating this information. We do not own any copyrights to any information on
tornadochaser.net website that was created by the NWS or NOAA.
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