July Hazard of the Month: Lightning

Lightning – When Thunder Roars, Go indoors!

What’s all the noise about? Thunder’s roar is caused by the shock wave in the air near a lightning bolt. Lightning is the most constant and widespread threat to people and property during the thunderstorm season. Oklahoma has the 6th highest flash density rating of the 48 contiguous states. Because Oklahoma has frequent storms, lightning is a constant and widespread threat during thunderstorm season, peaking during the summer months.

Who is at risk and what happens next? Anyone out-of-doors during a thunderstorm is exposed to and at risk from lightning. More people are killed by lightning strikes while participating in some form of recreation than any other activity. The next largest group of fatalities involves people located under trees, then those near bodies of water. Survivors of lightning strikes can suffer serious long-term effects, which include memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disturbance, numbness, dizziness, and stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression, and an inability to sit for long periods.

What about protecting electronics? Lightning strikes can cause high-voltage power surges that can damage property, especially electronics and equipment in homes or businesses. Surge protection should be included in any electronic system to minimize the risk of damage from lightning.

Are we safe if the clouds are miles away? Lightning can go between clouds, in the same cloud, or cloud to ground. Some cloud to ground lightning is so powerful that it can strike 10 miles out from the rain column. People die from lightning strikes under a clear sky ahead of the storm because they wait until the last minute to seek shelter. These flashes are even more dangerous because there is no precipitation to put out any fire they cause. All lightning can cause damage.

Lightning Safety: What You Need to Know (Source: NOAA)
NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
• If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
• When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
• Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Indoor Lightning Safety
• Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
• Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
• Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
• Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

Last Resort, Outdoor Risk-Reduction Tips
If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:
• Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
• Never lie flat on the ground, shelter under an isolated tree, or use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
• Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
• Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

For more information, visit http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/

The Disaster Resilience Network is providing these hazards of the month in conjunction with the City of Tulsa’s Storm Water Drainage and Hazard Mitigation Advisory Board. These hazards are identified in the 2014 City of Tulsa Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

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