Thunderstorms: What to Do Before, During and After

Art: Thunderstorm

Know the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning:

A severe thunderstorm watch tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are most likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued. Watches are meant to heighten public awareness.

A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property for those in the storm’s path.


  • Know what county you live and work in and the names of nearby major cities. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county basis.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended periods outdoors
  • Watch for signs of approaching storms.
  • If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather radio or AM/FM radio with you.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Check on those who have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.

When Thunderstorms Approach:

  • Remember if you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately!
  • Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles.
  • If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter isn’t available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep the windows up.
  • Get out of boats and away from water.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.
  • Don’t take a bath or shower.
  • Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.
  • Get to higher ground if flash flooding or flooding is possible. Once flooding begins, abandon cars and climb to higher ground. Don’t try to drive to safety. Note: Most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles.

If Caught Outdoors and No Shelter is Nearby:

  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles. Make sure the place you pick isn’t subject to flooding.
  • If you’re in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or you hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with you head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground.
  • If you’re boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
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