Seek appropriate shelter when lightning threatens

Summer is the peak season for one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena – lightning. In the United States, lightning kills an average of 66 people a year.

While no place is absolutely safe from lightning, some places are much safer than others. The safest location during lightning activity is a large enclosed building, not a picnic shelter or shed.

Examples of buildings that are unsafe include car ports, covered but open garages, covered patios, picnic shelters, beach shacks/pavilions, golf shelters, camping tents, large outdoor tents, baseball dugouts and other small buildings such as sheds and greenhouses that do not have electricity or plumbing, which provides a path to ground.

The second safest location is an enclosed metal vehicle, car, truck, van, etc., but not a convertible, bike or other topless or soft top vehicle. If you seek shelter in your vehicle, make sure all doors are closed and windows rolled up. Do not touch any metal surfaces. If you’re driving when a thunderstorm starts, keep in mind that a lightning flash hitting the vehicle could startle you and cause temporary blindness, especially at night. A brief break from driving might be in order.

Seek safe shelter when you first hear thunder, see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or lightning. Count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear the thunder. You should already be in a safe location if that time is less than 30 seconds. Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder.

Your first and only truly safe choice is to get to a safe building or vehicle. If you cannot get to a safe vehicle or shelter, consider the following.

While they will not entirely prevent you from being hit, these strategies will decrease the likelihood to a degree:

• Do not seek shelter under tall isolated trees. The tree may help you stay dry but will significantly increase your risk of being struck by lightning.

• Stay away from tall, isolated objects. Lightning typically strikes the tallest object (That may be you in an open field, clearing or on the water).

• If there is a high chance of thunderstorms in the weather forecast, curtail your outdoor activities.

To estimate the distance between you and a lightning flash, use the “flash-to-bang” method: If you observe lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five to get the distance in miles.

If thunder is heard, lightning is...

5 seconds after a flash, 1 mile away

10 seconds after a flash, 2 miles away

15 seconds after a flash, 3 miles away

20 seconds after a flash, 4 miles away

25 seconds after a flash, 5 miles away

30 seconds after a flash, 6 miles away

Get to a safe location if the time between the lightning flash and the rumble of thunder is 30 seconds or less.

Make the most of your time outdoors and enjoy our beautiful Ohio … but not when lightning is present!

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