MOUNT VERNON — “When thunder roars, go indoors!”
That’s the advice people who are participating in outdoor activities should heed, according to weather officials.
Thunderstorms can occur anytime of the year, but are most likely during the spring and summer seasons. June 20 through June 26 is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, during which people are encouraged to learn more about lightning safety: How to prepare for severe weather conditions, and what to do in thunder and lightning storms.
“In the United States, an average of 58 people are killed each year by lightning. To date, in the United States, there have been eight lightning deaths, one of which happened in St. Clairsville, Ohio,” said Matthew Sturgeon, deputy director for the Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. “Severe weather is a very significant hazard that we have in Ohio. You can use thunder as an early warning for lightning.”
Sturgeon encourages everyone to be watchful of the weather conditions by listening to local weather forecasts and media outlets, and having a weather radio available.
“One thing that we promote, and the National Weather Service is big on, is weather radios,” he said. “The Tone Alert weather radios turn on when the National Weather Service issues a warning or a watch. Any radio that has the weather radio is good, but the Tone Alert are the ones you want to receive your notifications.”
There is a difference between a watch and a warning, said Sturgeon. The NWS defines a watch as being used when the risk of hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so. A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.
Sturgeon explained that tornado sirens are not set off for a watch, they are sounded when the National Weather Service has issued a warning or a trained storm spotter has reported sighting a tornado.
During a thunderstorm, no place outdoors is safe, and the best place is indoors, said Sturgeon, but if a substantial home or building is not available, finding an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle is acceptable.
“A car is a good place to seek refuge, not because of the grounding the tires provide — that’s a myth — it’s the shielding the car provides,” he said.
The NWS advises people to stay in a safe shelter at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard. While they are indoors, the NWS cautions people to stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that puts one in direct contact with electricity; to avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets; to stay away from windows and doors and stay off porches; and to not lie on concrete floors or lean again concrete walls.
“They also warn against the wiring in your house. The reason for that is because any kind of electricity is going to take the path of least resistance so the wiring in your house could be dangerous,” said Sturgeon.
For more information, visit the National Weather Service Web site at www.weather.gov.