In a prior digital weather story I looked at how lightning forms. While lightning can put on a spectacular show, don’t forget it’s power and ability to create damage and harm, even kill humans and animals. So, a basic primer on lightning safety.
If you’re caught outdoors when lightning threatens, do not stand under a tree. Lightning is lazy and will hit the tallest object it can find. The safer place is inside. Even then, keep safety in mind. Stay away form windows. Stay off corded phones. Don’t touch electrical equipment such as computers, TVs, or cords. You can use remote controls safely. Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes. Stay away from exterior windows and doors doors that might contain metal components leading from outside your home to the inside. Stay off balconies, porches and out of open garages or car ports. Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
Stay away from water, wet items, such as ropes, and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal do not attract lightning but they are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
Be Safe in a Storm. If you are swimming, get out of the water. Get out as soon as you see a storm coming. The storm may seem far away, but lightning can travel over 20 miles!
You can take refuge in your vehicle, just don’t touch metal surfaces. Never walk in a thunderstorm carrying a metal pole. Don’t even carry an umbrella!
How will you know if a lightning strike is near you? You will feel the hair on your head or body start to stand up. If this happens, go to a safe place. Go quickly! If there is no safe place near, get as close to the ground as you can.
Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls. Protect your pets: Dog houses are not safe shelters. Dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes. Protect your property: Lightning generates electric surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike. Do not unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be struck.

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