Spring Safe Places – Your Safe Space from Lightning:
Lightning strikes the U.S. 25 million times a year, which sometimes results in death or permanent injury. You are safest indoors, or inside a hard-topped enclosed vehicle.
Although most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time of year. Lightning kills 20 or more people in the United States each year (17 in 2020), and hundreds more are severely injured.
The message from the National Weather Service is “When thunder roars, go indoors!” If you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, get to a safe place immediately. Thunderstorms always include lightning. Any thunder you hear is caused by lightning! NOAA advises that nowhere outside is safe when thunderstorms are in your area. Seek Shelter in Buildings. NOAA recommends seeking out fully enclosed buildings with electrical wiring and plumbing. Remain in the shelter for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder. If safe building structures are not accessible, go to hard-topped metal vehicles with rolled up windows. Remain in the vehicle for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder. After hearing thunder, do not use corded phones, except in an emergency. Cell phones and cordless phones may be used safely.
If you find yourself caught outside during a thunderstorm, there may be nothing you can do to prevent being struck by lightning. There simply is no safe place outside in a thunderstorm. This is why it is very important to get to a safe place at the first signs of a thunderstorm. Lightning is likely to strike the tallest objects in a given area—you should not be the tallest object. Avoid isolated tall trees, hilltops, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding, or rooftops. Avoid open areas, such as fields. Never lie flat on the ground. Retreat to dense areas of smaller trees that are surrounded by larger trees, or retreat to low-lying areas (e.g., valleys, ditches) but watch for flooding. Avoid water, and immediately get out of and away from bodies of water (e.g., pools, lakes). Avoid wiring, plumbing, and fencing. Lightning can travel long distances through metal, which is an excellent conductor of electricity. Stay away from all metal objects, equipment, and surfaces that can conduct electricity. Do not shelter in sheds, pavilions, tents, or covered porches as they do not provide adequate protection from lightning. Seek fully-enclosed, substantial buildings with wiring and plumbing. In modern buildings, the interior wiring and plumbing will act as an earth ground. A building is a safe shelter as long as you are not in contact with anything that can conduct electricity (e.g., electrical equipment or cords, plumbing fixtures, corded phones). Do not lean against concrete walls or floors (which may have metal bars inside).
Some people like to use lightning warning or detection systems, which can provide advance warning of lightning hazards. However, no systems can detect the “first strike,” detect all lightning, or predict lightning strikes. Commercial lightning detection and notification services are available to monitor for lightning activity. These notification services can send alerts when lightning activity develops or moves to within a certain range of a particular site. In addition, these commercial systems can provide mapped locations of lightning strikes from an approaching storm. However, these systems cannot predict the first lightning strike. Consequently, it is important to watch the sky for storms developing overhead or nearby and get to a safe place prior to the first lightning strike. Portable and hand-held lightning detectors function by detecting the electromagnetic signal from a nearby lightning strike and then processing the signal to estimate the distance to the lightning strike. These devices typically do not detect all strikes, cannot predict the first strike, cannot provide the location of a strike, and are less accurate than the commercial detection and notification systems. In some cases, simply listening for thunder or watching the sky may be a better indication of a developing or nearby storm.
Bottom line? Be smart! Be safe!