The National Weather Service (NWS) considers
a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado. When a sever
thunderstorm WARNING is issued, review what actions to take under a tornado warning or a flash flood warning.
Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines. Some of the most severe weather occurs when a single
thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time. Lightning is a major threat during a thunderstorm. It is the lightning that produces thunder in a thunderstorm. Lightning
is very unpredictable, which increases the risk to individuals and property.
Downbursts and straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms can produce winds 100 to 150 miles per hour,
enough to flip cars, vans, and semi-trucks. The resulting damage can equal the damage of most tornadoes.
BEFORE LIGHTNING STRIKES
- Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of light, or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
- If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
- Listen to NOAAWeather Radio, commercial radio, or television for the latest weather forecasts.
WHEN A STORM APPROACHES
- Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
- Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the
telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
- Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
- Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job!
- Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will
prevent glass from shattering into your home.
IF CAUGHT OUTSIDE
- If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
- If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!
PROTECTING YOURSELF OUTSIDE
- Go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
- Be a very small target! Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your
knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible.
- Do not lie flat on the ground--this will make you a larger target!
AFTER THE STORM PASSES
- Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
- Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
IF SOMEONE IS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING
- People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely.
- Call for help. Get someone to dial 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number.
- The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both
where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Check for burns in both places. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones, and loss of hearing or eyesight.
- Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart
has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries. Learn first aid
and CPR by taking a Red Cross first aid and CPR course. CLICK HERE for class schedules and fees.
ADDITIONAL MATERIALS AVAILABLE
American Red Cross of Rhode Island can provide additional materials in English and Spanish:
- "Are You Ready for a Tornado?" (ARC 4457)
- "Are You Ready for a Flood or Flash Flood?" (ARC 4458)
- "Your Family Disaster Plan" (ARC 4466)
- "Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit" (ARC 4463)
Materials for Children:
- "Disaster Preparedness Coloring Book" (PDF File) (ARC 2200, English, or Spanish) for children ages 3-10.
- "Adventures of the Disaster Dudes" (ARC 5024) video and Presenter's Guide for use by an adult with children in grades 4-6.