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Staying safe when lightning strikes

When dark storm clouds move in it's time to head indoors.
When dark storm clouds move in it's time to head indoors.

Matt Casey, staff writer

May 24, 2011 — Thunderstorms often fire up at this time of year, and The Weather Network has some tips for staying safe when lightning strikes.

Lightning can be a beatiful sight, but it is extremely dangerous.
Lightning can be a beatiful sight, but it is extremely dangerous.

When storm clouds roll in and lightning streaks the sky it can be tempting to stay outside and watch nature's light show. But it's always important to remember lightning is also very dangerous.

Every year approximately 10 Canadians die from lightning strikes. Between 100 and 150 more are injured.

Being aware of the weather forecast for the day is the most important step before taking part in any outdoor activities. If thunderstorms are possible, have a plan to move to a safe location if you see dark clouds brewing on the horizon. Always remember that the outdoors offers no safety during a lightning storm.

Lightning safety when outdoors:

  • Seek immediate shelter. Move to the interior of a solid structure with four walls and a roof. If you are not near a solid structure, then move to the inside of a hard topped vehicle that is fully enclosed. Open cab vehicles like convertibles, even with the top closed, offer no protection from a lightning strike.
  • Make yourself the lowest object in the area. Seek shelter in a ditch or other low lying area. But be aware of flash flooding that can occur from intense rain that can accompany a storm.
  • Stay away from water. Lightning can travel large distances through water from its strike point.
  • Stay away from objects that can conduct electricity. This includes things like lawn mowers, bicycles, and metal fences.
  • If you find yourself in a forest when a storm hits take shelter in a low lying area and under a thick growth of small trees.

Lightning safety when indoors:

  • Stay inside. Don't go outside unless it's absolutely necessary. Being inside of a home or solid structure is the safest place to be in a thunderstorm.
  • Stay away from windows. Try to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
  • Avoid using corded telephones and electrical equipment. Electrical current from a strike can travel through wires in your home and into connected devices.
  • After the storm has passed, wait at least 30 minutes after hearing the last rumble of thunder before heading back outside.

The 30/30 rule

  • Take appropriate shelter when you count 30 seconds or fewer between lightning and thunder
  • Remain sheltered for 30 minutes after the last thunder.

To see if thunderstorms are possible in your area visit our Canadian Cities Index.

With files from Lyndsay Morrison

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