When the Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
When the thunder rolls and the lightning strikes, North Texans know the results can be unpredictable. Many are familiar with the devastating effects heavy rain, high winds, and even hail from severe thunderstorms can cause, but fewer are familiar with how big of a threat lightning is.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 20 lightning related deaths in Texas from 2005 to 2014, ranking it No.2 behind Florida.
On top of that, about 70 percent of lightning fatalities occur in June, July and August. These months not only have the greatest amount of lightning activity, but people also tend to spend a lot more time outdoors during these three months.
Of all the lightning related fatalities, over 50 percent occur in or around water or at sporting events.
According to the Dallas Park & Recreation Department, if thunder is heard or lightning is seen, all public pools will be cleared and remain cleared for 30 minutes from the last time thunder or lightning is observed.
The University Interscholastic League also follows strict lightning safety guidelines to protect student athletes, coaching staffs and spectators at all of their outdoor sporting events. They also suspend all games for thirty minutes following the last sound of thunder or lightning flash. They suggest retreating to a safe shelter during a thunderstorm, which is any building that has four solid walls (not a dugout), electrical and telephone wiring, as well as plumbing, which help aid in grounding a structure.
Many youth sports associations in North Texas follow the same protocol, and some are equipped with lightning prediction systems that alert everyone that games have been suspended by sounding a horn and flashing strobe lights.
So what are some ways you can ensure you and your family’s safety this Summer? According to John Jensenius, lightning safety specialist at the National Weather Service and NOAA, it’s less about preparing for what to do and more about prevention.
“Rather than ‘what to do in a dangerous situation,’ the National Weather Service recommendations focus on ‘what to do so you don’t get into a dangerous situation,’ and, “if you do find yourself in a dangerous situation, how to get out of the dangerous situation,” Jensenius said.
The NWS suggests planning ahead – like knowing where you’ll go for safety – listening to the forecast, monitoring weather conditions, taking action early, and getting inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle before threatening weather arrives.
The NWS also has a lightning safety website filled with resources like animated books about lightning and games for kids that teach the science behind lightning as well as safety tips, so the entire family can get involved.
“Remember, lightning makes every single thunderstorm a potential killer, whether the storm produces one single bolt or ten thousand bolts, the NWS warns. “Have a lightning safety plan. Check weather forecasts daily. Cancel or postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms develop.”