What to Do When Lightning Strikes

In the aftermath of the recent string of incidents in which local residents have been struck by lightning, the NBC10 weather team tells us what to do and what not to do when lightning strikes.

By Dawn Timmeney and David Chang
|  Monday, Aug 27, 2012  |  Updated 5:09 PM EDT
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NBC10's Dawn Timmeney spoke to NBC10's meteorologists about how to know when lightning is close and what to do if it is.

NBC10 Philadelphia - Dawn Timmeney

NBC10's Dawn Timmeney spoke to NBC10's meteorologists about how to know when lightning is close and what to do if it is.

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Lightning is a huge summertime threat and in less than a week, at least 18 people in our area were struck by lightning. On Sunday, one man was killed while nine others were injured by lightning at the Pocono Raceway.  On Friday, more than four people were hurt by lightning in Wilmington, Delaware. Finally, on Wednesday, lightning injured a family of four in Wildwood, New Jersey.

In light of the recent incidents, the NBC10 weather team says it's important to know what to do and what not to do when lightning approaches.

NBC10 Chief Meteorologist Glenn Schwartz says getting inside a car is a smart thing to do when lightning strikes. Rolling down the window is a huge mistake however.

“At that instant moment there’s increased danger,” said Glenn. “Because now you’re touching a part of the car that’s metal.”

Metal, as well as water, are good conductors of electricity. Make sure you stay away from the ocean, lakes and rivers during a thunderstorm.

NBC10 meteorologist Sheena Parveen says the best thing to do is take cover inside a building. A pavilion, carport or something similar are not enough protection. While many people believe there’s no danger if there’s rain, Sheena says you can get struck by lightning even if you only hear thunder.

“If you hear thunder, you are in the vicinity of the storm,” said Sheena. “Lightning can strike 10 miles from the storm and once it hits the ground it can travel about 60 feet.”

Sheena also says you’re in immediate danger if you’re outside and your hair starts to stand on end.

“That is the number one sign you are about to get struck by lightning,” said Sheena.

Glenn recommends that you crouch down low if you happen to be outside in the middle of a storm.

“Crouch down low with as little of your body touching the ground as possible,” said Glenn. “So that if you kneel down it’s just the balls of your feet.”

The National Weather Service says the biggest mistake people make is waiting too long to seek shelter when a storm hits. The Service recommends that you count the seconds between when you see the lightning and hear the thunder then divide that by five. If you count five seconds, the lightning is only one mile away. Finally the Service says the most important thing to do when thunder roars is to go indoors.

For more information on lightning safety, click on the following link: Lightning Safety

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