Spring Weather Week: Lightning safety

Original Reporting

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — Spring in the Carolinas means warmer temperatures and more people heading outside, but these warm temperatures lead to more spring thunderstorms as well.  

All thunderstorms produce lightning and lightning is dangerous. Understanding how to stay safe around lightning can save your life.

In fact, there is only one rule that you need to follow: if you can hear thunder, you are in danger.

“Typical Southern spring and summer thunderstorms can pop up a lot of lightning and it’s absolutely dangerous,” said Chief Scott Garrett with the Westview-Fairforest Fire Department.

Garrett said because thunderstorms are so typical many people don’t take safety seriously.

Here are a few lightning facts:

  • Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall
  • Many lightning strikes happen ahead of storms or after storms have seemingly passed
  • Many times storms are closer than they look and you could be in range of a lightning strike.

In fact, many lightning victims said they were “caught” outside in the storm and couldn’t get to a safe place or waited too long before looking for shelter. That’s how tools like the 7 Weather App are very useful. The 7 Weather App, and many weather apps like it, has a lightning detector so you know how far away lightning strikes are and you can get to a safe shelter.

And when we say “safe shelter” it means an enclosed building like a home, office building, or store but not sheds, tents, porches, and ball-field dugouts. They DO NOT offer any lightning protection whatsoever!

If you aren’t near an enclosed building, a metal-topped vehicle will give you protection from lightning, but make sure the windows are up.

During a thunderstorm no place outside is safe, but lightning can pose a danger inside too. Lightning does occasionally strike homes but there are some things you can do to stay safe. Surge protectors are a big thing for protecting all of your electronic equipment like computers and televisions. After the lightning threat has passed Chief Garrett said check your house!

“One of the biggest things to do if you feel it (your house) has been struck, you really need to be going out and checking it,” said Garrett.

Staying inside your safe building or vehicle for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder clap will help you stay safe. The most effective lightning safety action is to avoid the lightning threat altogether.  Have a lightning safety plan. Check the forecast for thunderstorms. And when outdoors, if you hear thunder, move to a safe place.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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