STATEWIDE–When outside and you see a flash, be smart and make a quick dash. A car or building is where you should be. Never take shelter under a tree. These are just some of the tips the National Weather Service wants you to be aware of when it comes to lightning.
This week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
“You don’t have to have a severe thunderstorm to get lightning. Any thunderstorm can produce lightning. We say, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors’ because when you hear thunder, that’s a clue that we have a thunderstorm in the area that includes lightning,” said Mike Ryan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. “When it comes to significant weather, it’s not tornadoes or damaging winds that cause the most fatalities. It’s flooding and right behind that is lightning.”
Ryan says lightning can also cause fires and knock down trees, which is why he recommends never going underneath a tree for safety when lightning is striking near you. Your car or a building is a safer place to take shelter.
He also wanted to set the record straight on “heat lightning.” There is no such thing as heat lightning.
“What that actually is, essentially, is lightning strikes or flashes from a thunderstorm that’s far enough away that you can not hear thunder,” said Ryan. “Let’s say we see one of those anvil-shaped thunderhead clouds off in the distance. As it is getting dark, you see the lightning flashes, but you’re not hearing any thunder. People say, ‘Oh hey that’s heat lightning’. Well no, it’s just lightning from a storm that’s 50-70 miles away and you just don’t hear the thunder from it.”
There are several types of lightning, but the most dangerous kind is cloud-to-ground lightning.
“You see it in the shape of a bolt. That’s the most dangerous simply because that charge within the lightning is getting itself down to a point on the ground. You’ll definitely want to take shelter when you see that,” said Ryan.
June through August every year is a time where lightning can strike the most. Ryan says you especially need to watch the forecast if you plan on going out on the lake because you don’t want to be stuck there during a storm.
“When that happens, there’s nowhere safe for you to be on the water. We encourage folks that when they are going out on the water to certainly be cognizant,” said Ryan. “I know we have people who love to boat and fish this time of year.”
As a precaution, Ryan also recommends not using electronics or taking a shower in your house when there is lightning in your area.
LISTEN: Full Interview with Mike Ryan