How to Stay Safe in a Lightning Storm

    Thunderstorms in Kansas are a given, but do you know how to keep your home safe from lightning?

    Leaky Pipes

    Was your mom one of those moms that told you not to talk on the phone or take a shower during a lightning storm? Admit it, you thought she was crazy. You probably didn’t believe her and continued your conversation in spite of her.

    Turns out, mom was right. (Did you ever really doubt it?) If lightning is 50,000 degrees and can instantly catch a home on fire, why wouldn’t it be dangerous?

    What Is Lightning?

    Simply put, lightning is a giant spark of electricity between the atmosphere and the ground. Thunder is the sound lightning makes when a shockwave is created by the rapid heating and cooling of the air within the lightning channel. Beyond this definition gets rather too science-y for this post, so we’ll keep it simple.

    It’s not a surprise to anyone from Kansas that we are known for our powerful storms. Although traditionally known for tornadoes, lightning and heavy rain can be just as destructive to your home as a tornado.

    In 2015 Kansas had over a million cloud-to-ground flashes. The frequency of these flashes landed Kansas the number 12 spot in the United States for cloud-to-ground frequency.
    Statistics from Vaisala, Inc. and measured by the National Lightning Detection Network.

    So what do you do in the middle of a summer lightning storm?

    Because lightning searches for wiring and pipes after it hits a home, taking a shower or interacting with water in your home during a storm is dangerous. Talking on a phone that’s connected to a landline is likewise a bad idea. Using the computer while plugged into an electric outlet is also a no-no. However, lightning has no interest in wireless connectors, so talking on a cell phone or working on Wi-Fi is safe.

    Kansas is 12th in the nation for cloud-to-ground lightning strikes according to the National Lightning Detection Network

    What to do if your home is struck by lightning?

    If you think or know your home has been struck your primary concern is fire. Lightning will typically start in attics or inside walls where the lightening hit and/or traveled. If the fire starts in the wall it might not always be easy to find, so make sure to check thoroughly if you suspect your home of being struck. In addition to fire damage be wary of damaged infrastructure and chimney’s. Fire Departments are typically on high alert during storms; if you have a fire call them!

    Outdoor Safety

    If it’s dangerous inside, it only makes sense that it would be more so outdoors. The best place to be is in a building with four walls and a covering. Stay put until 30 minutes after you hear the last crack of thunder to make sure all the lightning is out of the area.

    While if you can’t get inside, a car is in fact a safer place to be, it’s not the tires your mom told you about that keep you safe (sorry mom). In fact, typically lightning will strike the car’s antenna or somewhere along the roofline. From here it will pass through the car’s outer metal shell and through the tires to the ground. This process might fry your car, but will typically keep you safe. Again, when in doubt get inside.

    Finally, for goodness sake- don’t hide under a tree. It’s the second leading cause of injury after the strike itself in a lightning storm. Crouching down or lying flat on the ground is also not good plan, you’d be much better running to shelter.

    Of course, once you get inside a building, stay away from water sources, electrical appliances, metal or windows.

    Stay safe this summer and remember, no trees.

    About the Author

    Debbie Kubik Evert juggles several part-time jobs (writing, research, dog sitting) and often spends her free time gardening, coloring and creating personalized products for friends and family. She was born and raised in Wichita, graduating from Southeast High School. She continued her education and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism. Debbie shares her home with labradorable Cocoa.

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