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Lightning Season Rapidly Approaching: Best Safety Practices
March 13, 2023
By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, Chad Merrill
As severe thunderstorm season rapidly approaches, it’s time to be mindful of the hidden dangers of these menacing storms.
The thunderstorm season migrates from the Southern Plains and Mississippi Valley in March-April-May to the Upper Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in late May through the summer. The spring outlook calls for above-average lightning in the Southeast to Upper Midwest, so now is the time to keep in mind a few important reminders.
The biggest tell tale signs of an approaching thunderstorm include darkening skies, lightning flashes in the distance and increasing wind. During the night, lightning will be visible at a much farther distance and there is no such thing as “heat lightning.” All lightning originates from a thunderstorm that is either approaching or moving away from your area.
Outdoor sports games and other leisure activities should immediately be stopped if a thunderstorm is in the vicinity. Many people struck by lightning are actually outside of the core of the storm where no rain is occurring. A sturdy building or car are the safest places to be during a thunderstorm. A barn, shed or mobile home can be tossed around in the high winds associated with storms, even if the storm is not considered “severe.”
The popular phrase, “if thunder roars, go indoors,” applies all year long. If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning. If you don’t have any means to receive lightning alerts, stay inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap. Avoid using phones and any electronic devices connected to a wall outlet. Stay away from windows and avoid using the bathroom and taking a shower.
If you are driving into an approaching thunderstorm, the best safety method is to pull off the road, turn your roadside hazards on and avoid touching metal surfaces. If you are caught outside away from any buildings, crouch down, cover your head and try to take up the least amount of space by curling into a ball. Do this in a small ditch or lower elevation spot away from trees, fences, bleachers, picnic shelters and dugouts.
Historically, lightning is most frequent in the Southeast from June through August between 2-6 p.m. In the Upper Midwest, lightning is most frequent late May through mid-June between 4-8 p.m. July and August are active for lightning in the Rockies between Noon and 6 p.m. The Mid-Atlantic sees most of its lightning between 3-7 p.m. in June and July. The Northeast has its most frequent lightning coverage between 2-6 p.m. in July and August while the Plains are fair game for lightning late in the evening through the overnight hours.
Keep your WeatherBug active to spot the nearest lightning to your vicinity, keep abreast of changing weather and get the latest Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Warnings.
Story Image: Debris flies through the air as howling winds accompanied by a line of storms approach the old Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, on March 2, 2023. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)