Most of the U.S. will experience thunderstorms from time to time, but the state with the highest occurrence of storms might be surprising. The 2012 Farmer’s Almanac included eight cities in Florida in their list of the top 10 most thunderstorm-prone cities in the U.S. Why did Florida dominate the list? It is the perfect region for thunderstorms, because its warm and humid conditions are highly favorable for storm development.
A thunderstorm is also known as an electrical storm, lightning storm or thundershower. It is characterized by the presence of lightning and thunder, and it is usually accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain and occasionally, snow, sleet or hail. They may occur as single storms, in a cluster, or in lines. Most thunderstorms produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. However, the most severe damage occurs when a single storm affects one location for an extended period of time. Downburst winds, large hailstones and flash flooding commonly cause the damage resulting from a thunderstorm.
All thunderstorms can be dangerous and it is important to have a plan in place for thunderstorm safety. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm hazard, and it is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. Dry thunderstorms do not produce rain that reaches the ground, but the lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires. Read the tips below on how to prepare for and stay safe during a thunderstorm.
What to do before, during, and after a thunderstorm
- Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Look for lightning and go indoors if you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder; stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last thunder-clap
- Consider investing in a personal lightning detector
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage
- Shut all windows and secure outside doors
- Unplug electronic equipment
- Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords, including devices plugged in for recharging (consider unplugging valuable electronics in case of power surge)
- Water conducts electricity, so avoid contact with plumbing
- Stay away from windows and doors and stay off porches
- Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls
- Avoid natural lightning rods, such as tall isolated trees, and avoid isolated small structures in open areas
- Avoid contact with metal, including farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts and bicycles
- If you are driving, safely exit or pull over and park; do not touch any surface that conducts electricity in or outside of the vehicle
- Never drive through a flooded roadway
- Avoid storm-damaged areas
- Help people who may require special assistance
- Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately
- Watch your pets closely; keep them indoors if possible
Disaster preparedness plan
Visit our Disaster Preparedness Plan page to learn more about Hurricane Safety, Tornado Safety, Fire Safety Tips and developing an Emergency Evacuation Plan. Also consider preparing a 72-hour kit to add an additional layer of safety for you and your family.