Be Bright: Stay Safe During Lightning Storms

Mother Nature has put on quite the light show in Georgia in recent weeks, with lightning bolts sparking house fires, felling trees and ultimately knocking out power in parts of the state. Although those storms did not result in any fatalities, the same can’t be said in other states, where lightning has recently claimed several lives. Earlier this month, one man died and nine others were injured when lightning stuck outside the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania following a NASCAR race. In Panama City, an Alabama man and his teenage stepson died after being struck by lightning while walking back to their boat from the beach.

According to the National Weather Service, lightning is the No. 3 weather-related killer in Georgia. In fact, in 2010, the state led the nation with one of the highest numbers of lightning-related deaths.

With so much time spent outside during the summer – and lightning occurring more frequently during the warmer months of June through September – it’s important to know what to do before severe weather strikes. After all, lightning is nature’s warning signal that a thunderstorm is in its most violent state and that you should seek shelter immediately.

Here are a few tips for how to respond if you’re caught outside during a lightning storm.

  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • If a storm does approach, find shelter in a sturdy building or hard top automobile. Keep all windows closed.
  • If you are caught outside and cannot find shelter, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • Be a very small target! Squat low to the ground, but do not lie flat on the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • If someone is struck by lightning, they carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number. Learn first aid and CPR by taking an American Red Cross first aid and CPR course; call your local Red Cross chapter for class schedules and fees.
  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts, or download the Ready Georgia mobile app.

Lightning strikes the ground an estimated 25 million times each year in the U.S., and all too often the consequences are deadly. With weeks of humid weather still ahead, it’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones, while still enjoying what summer has to offer. Remember, preparedness now can reduce stress later, so prepare, plan and stay informed to make those days by the pool much more relaxing. For more information, visit