Summer is prime time for severe thunderstorms. Hot and humid weather often contributes to the formation of storms. Hmm…hot and humid? Sounds like Atlanta, right? Severe thunderstorms can be terrifying, with the torrential rain and cracks of thunder that can shake a house. Only about 10% of thunderstorms are declared “severe,” but if they are they can come with hail, 60 mph winds, and even tornadoes. All of which can be very destructive. The sheer power of thunderstorms is why it’s important for you and your family to know how to stay safe when summer storms hit.
Keep the following in mind next time you and your family have to weather a (literal) storm.
BEFORE THE STORM HITS:
1. Create a disaster kit.
It’s a good idea to have an emergency disaster kit prepared to help you and your family get through a natural disaster. Having a stash of emergency supplies will help you out in case the power goes out or you have to hunker down for a while. For a list of items that you should include in your kit, visit The Red Cross’s website.
2. Take care of any dead or rotting trees or branches.
Trees and tree branches can cause a lot of damage. Make sure to keep your yard and trees maintained so that ailing trees won’t crash into your house during a thunderstorm. In heavy winds, a tree that’s not healthy might give up and fall over (but hey, even a healthy tree could be at risk.)
3. Know when and where to take shelter.
First of all, you have to know what the weather warnings you might hear mean.
Severe thunderstorm watch means that the conditions are ideal for the formation of a whopper storm. Stay tuned to news outlets like the radio, TV, or your NOAA radio.
Severe thunderstorm warning means a severe storm has been sighted in the area. In other words, you’re about to get pummeled by a serious storm. Take shelter immediately.
If you’re outside and you see lightning, count to 30. If thunder booms before you get to 30, you need to hoof it inside. To shelter, find a sturdy-looking building. Avoid open areas and bodies of water. If you can’t get to a building, shelter in a hard-topped car. Don’t touch any metal or conductive parts of the car, however – if lightning touches down near you, you don’t want to get shocked. Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last boom.
Because lightning is so unpredictable, it’s very dangerous. It doesn’t have to be raining hard for lightning to strike, and sometimes strikes happen 10 miles away from any rain. There’s even a kind of lightning called “heat lightning”, which means that the storm is too far away for the thunder to be heard. However, this usually means the storm is headed your way, so be prepared.
4. Don’t leave your outdoor furniture lying around.
If you have outdoor patio furniture, you need to either move it inside or make sure that you’ve secured it in place. Outdoor furniture can get picked up by strong winds and thus turned into a missile that could damage your home.
5. Unplug electronics.
Unplugging your electronic devices can keep them from getting fried in a power surge (if one occurs.) Things like computers are susceptible to being toasted, as are AC units. You might want to turn your AC unit off yourself.
6. Batten the hatches.
Shutter your windows and secure your doors. If your windows don’t have shutters, pull any blinds or curtains that you might have.
DURING THE STORM:
7. Don’t touch electronics.
When the storm hits, don’t use corded phones or devices. Basically steer clear of electrical cords and plugs. You don’t want to accidentally get electrocuted.
8. Avoid contact with plumbing fixtures.
Steer clear of plumbing fixtures during thunderstorms. They can also conduct electricity.
9. Steer clear of windows and doors.
These things are weak spots and they might break, allowing the storm to come inside. You’ll be safest in an interior room of the house in a room with no windows.
10. If you’re driving when you’re caught in the thunderstorm…
Do your best to cautiously and safely get off the road, pull over, and park. Turn on your hazard lights and wait out the thunderstorm – it won’t do any good to keep driving if you can’t see. Try to avoid touching any metal or conductive parts of the car. Lightning is scary.
11. Stay tuned to a battery-operated radio.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration battery radio will provide you with the details you need to know about the weather situation and the thunderstorm. This should be part of your disaster kit.
Atlanta definitely sees its fair share of harsh thunderstorms, particularly in the summer months. Stay safe during storms and don’t take any chances. Take shelter and listen to weather warnings, even if the situation doesn’t seem that bad – yet. Storms can hit and worsen fast. Be smart and respect the power of thunderstorms.
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