What is it?
A thunderstorm is a transient storm of lightning and thunder, usually with rain and gusty winds, sometimes with hail or snow, produced by cumulonimbus clouds. A severe thunderstorm produces hail at least ¾-inch in diameter, wind 58 mph or higher, or tornadoes.
Lightning is a luminous electric discharge in the atmosphere caused by the electric-charge separation produced in or thunderstorm clouds.
Hail is a showery precipitation in the form of irregular pellets or balls of ice more than one-third inch in diameter.
What’s the Risk?
Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes or winter storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes.
Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the United States, only about 10 percent are classified as severe.
Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms.
Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms. There are an average of 93 deaths and over 300 injuries each year caused by lightning in the United States alone. In addition, there are several hundred million dollars of property and forest damage that result each year from lightning.
Hail, a frequent product of severe thunderstorms, causes nearly $1 billion in damage to property and crops each year nationwide. Property damage estimates from hail in Colorado frequently top $50 million a year.
How Should I Prepare?
Thunderstorms can be very dangerous because they are capable of producing several different types of severe weather such as:
- Heavy rain
When a thunderstorm is approaching: Indoors
- Secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture.
- Avoid bathtubs – the metal piping can transmit electricity should your home be struck.
- Don’t handle any appliances connected to your electrical outlets; these can also act as transmitters.
If you are outdoors:
- Get inside if it’s possible.
- If you feel your hair standing on end, drop to your knees and cover your head.
If you are in your car:
- Avoid flooded roadways.
- Stay in your car, pull to the side of the road and put your flashers on till the heavy rains pass.
Lightning can strike 5 to 10 miles in advance of the thunderstorm. If there is a thunderstorm in your area you should take shelter whether the storm has reached you or not.
- Go inside a house or a large building, or get inside your vehicle if it has a covered metal roof.
- If you are out in an open area, you do not want to be the tallest object but also be sure not to be too close to any tall trees or other tall objects.
- You could be stuck by the same lightning as a tree if you are directly under it.
- Seek shelter in a low area under any brush; be aware of the possibility of flash flooding.
- Do not lie flat, crouch low with your feet on the ground and close together.
- Get out of or away from water.
- Get away from any metal equipment like a tractor or other machinery.
- Any vehicle safe for you to be in has a metal exterior and you are able to avoid touching any metal on the interior.
- Get off any bike, scooter, or motorcycle.
Hail: On average hail results in 1 billion dollars of damage annually.
If you are driving:
- Find a safe place to park such as inside a public garage or under an overpass.
- Once the hail has stopped do not drive into any areas where hail has accumulated to a foot or higher – If the hail begins to melt rapidly these roads could flood.
If you are inside:
- Stay inside until the hail has stopped.
- Avoid windows if possible.
- If you cannot avoid all windows, cover your eyes with any available cloth to protect them should the glass shatter.
If you are outdoors:
- Attempt to find cover for your entire body but especially be sure to cover your head.
- Stay out of low lying areas where flooding could occur.
After a Thunderstorm
- Report any broken utility lines to: 970-221-6710.
- Check on your family members or roommates.
- Check your basement or any crawl spaces for flooding.
- Check your home and other personal property for damage and report any damages to your insurance company as soon as possible.