Thunder roars loudly and can be very frightening – but by itself can’t really hurt anyone. Its two most fearsome companions however, can be very dangerous indeed:
- Lightning killed an average of 31 people a year between 2006 and 2015, and injured another 279.1 Your estimated odds of being struck in an 80-year lifespan are 1 in 13,000.1 And yes, those are higher odds than winning a fortune in the lottery.
- Hail can happen during any strong storm, hurling chunks of ice to the earth at speeds up to 120 mph – and they range in size from a pea to a grapefruit! That’s a hefty projectile.
So to protect yourself, your family and home from these real dangers takes a little bit of knowledge and preparation. Here are some hail and lighting safety tips:
Know the “30/30” rule: When you see a lightning flash, start counting. If you don't make it to 30 before hearing the thunder, head indoors. Then stay indoors until 30 minutes after hearing the last boom of thunder.
If you’re already indoors
- Avoid using corded phones and electronics such as computers or power tools. Electrical wires can conduct lightning.
- Don't use your cell phone during a thunderstorm.
- Don't wash your hands, shower, wash dishes or do laundry. Metal pipes in the plumbing can also conduct lightning.
- High winds and hail can shatter glass, so stay away from windows, skylights and doors.
- Keep drapes and blinds closed to prevent hail-shattered glass from blowing in or flying around.
If you're outside when a storm hits
- Take shelter when you see dark clouds or lightning, hear thunder or feel hail.
- Head for an enclosed building, rather than a carport or open garage.
- No enclosed structure? Get inside a hardtop, all-metal car, truck or SUV. Avoid leaning against vehicles.
- Get off bicycles and motorcycles.
- If no shelter from lightning is available, squat down and put your hands on your knees with your head in between to make yourself a smaller target.
- If you’re in the water, head for shore immediately and avoid metal objects. Water and metal can both carry an electrical current.
- If you're in a group of people, spread out.
- Take care of your pets by bringing them inside. Doghouses are not lightning- or hail-proof.
Protecting your stuff
To help lessen some of the potential damage from a lightning strike:
- Remove dead or overhanging tree branches that could fall on your house if the tree is struck by lightning.
- Put your entire house on a surge-protection system.
- Unplug appliances and electronic equipment when not in use.
A major concern with hail is damage to your home’s roof. No roofing material is hail-proof, so look for hail-resistant shingles that carry a Class 4 UL rating. Learn what type of roofing material is appropriate for homes in your area. Also, be aware that most roofing jobs are not for DIYers. It can be dangerous work. So unless you’re experienced, hire a professional roofing contractor. And speaking of roof repairs, we also cover that.
Hail can also cause extensive damage to your vehicle. To help lessen that risk:
- If a severe thunderstorm is predicted, park your car where it will be protected, like in a garage.
- Driving when the storm begins? Head for an overpass, garage or carport – anything with a strong roof. If none are available, pull to the side of road, cover your face with clothing to protect yourself from any broken glass, and wait. Most hailstorms only last about 5 minutes.