Every single thunderstorm has lightning even when it can’t be seen. It is one of those acts of nature that we don’t completely understand, especially when it comes to how a thunderstorm cloud gets the initial charge, there are only assumptions as to how it happens. One thought is that the ice particles gather electrical charge as they bump into one another but again, nobody knows for sure.
Determining Distance From Lightning
You can figure out how far you are from a flash of lightning which I like to turn into a game with my children to help calm their fears. You can do this by counting the seconds between when you see the lightning and when you hear the thunder. Once you have done so, divide that number by five with the number that you are left with being the distance in miles. As an example, if you count 15 seconds between the flash of lightning and thunder, it means the lightning struck roughly three miles away (15 ÷ 5 = 3).
In most cases, you can hear thunder about ten miles from a lightning strike. This means that you are within reach of dangerous lightning and should seek shelter immediately.
What are Lightning Rods?
We see very few thunderstorms in the UK most years (thanks to our messed up weather) but if you live in an area that is prone to thunderstorms, you should consider installing a lightning protection system on the home. With these systems, you will have a lightning rod fixed on the highest point of the roof that is more likely to attract lightning than other parts of the home. As the lightning strikes the rod, it is then diverted through cables that are connected to a low-resistance earth grounding system.
These are not something that you should be buying online for yourself to install unless you fully understand what you are doing. In order for them to be effective, you need to have them properly planned and dimensioned according to your own homes size and shape, among other factors.
Did you know? if you have a fear of thunder and lightning you suffer from what is known as astraphobia.
In most cases, lightning-related deaths happen because the victims just weren’t paying attention. We all know the saying, “When thunder roars, go indoors” but some people just want to hang around for an extra few minutes to finish whatever job they are doing like mowing the lawn. With most of those deaths, the victim was also easily within reach of a safe building. There just isn’t any point in putting yourself at risk, the lawn will still be there once the storm has passed.
Did you know? 90 percent of lightning strike victims actually survive. It is thought that the reason is because only a small percentage of those are direct hits by the lightning.
How to Prepare for a Thunderstorm
- Have an emergency kit ready
- Learn to understand the distance as we mentioned above and follow the 30/30 Safety Rule. Start counting when you see lightning. If you hear thunder before you get to the count of 30, get indoors and stay there for 30 minutes after you hear no more thunder.
- Make sure that everyone in the home understands the safety techniques for during a storm.
- Have an internal room ready in the home that has no windows or glass doors. This could be a large closet if you don’t have a room.
- Keep all windows and doors closed.
- Unplug all electrical equipment and appliances of which you are not in immediate need.
- Learn how to turn the power off if flooding is a possibility (see the bottom of the post)
- Take a hands-on first aid course so that you are trained to deal with any injuries.
- Inspect any outbuildings that contain pets to make sure that they are storm safe.
How to Survive a Thunderstorm
- Head for a sturdy building with strong foundations. This is especially important if you live in a mobile home.
- Stay tuned into the radio to hear of the latest reports and updates about the storm.
- Keep away from all windows and doors. You may want to step out to take a few photos but that could be a fatal mistake.
- Keep all windows and doors closed. Shutters too if you have them.
- Unplug all electrical appliances including computers and phone chargers.
- If the storm hits when you are driving, get off the road, park your car and remain in the vehicle until the storm has passed. Turn on the emergency flashers and do not touch anything metal within the vehicle.
- If you are outside when the storm hits, seek immediate shelter in the nearest safe building. Do not head for high ground or isolated trees.
- Stay away from water and anything that is wet. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity, and therefore a lightning strike far away can travel long distances via water.
- Do not touch any plumbing. That means sinks, tubs, and showers. So don’t wash your hands or take a shower, and don’t wash dishes or do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures conduct electricity.
During a thunderstorm you can use cordless or wireless phones but never use a corded phone or anything that is connected to a wall outlet.
When the storm has passed, remember the rule that we mentioned earlier; stay inside for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. Once you are sure, check your home over for any damage including the basement and roof and deal with it accordingly. If possible, help anybody that requires assistance providing that doing so will not put yourself at risk. If you see someone that has been struck by lightning, you don’t need to worry about touching them as no shock will occur.
How to Turn the Power Off
If there is a possibility of major flooding or of the storm disrupting the power coming into the home, you should disconnect your power supply, even if you have already lost power. You can do this manually by:
- Locate your fuse box
- If possible, you should turn the entire fuse box off. Look for an ON/OFF handle on the outside of the box and switch to the OFF position.
- Open the box and remove all the main fuses.
- Unscrew each circuit breaker.
- If your fuse box works completely on switches, push each breaker to the OFF position.
- After conditions dry, reinsert all your fuses and switch back on all your breakers.