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Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Severe Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety

Tornadoes may get most of the attention when it comes to severe weather, but severe thunderstorms producing large hail and damaging winds are just as important to prepare for.

By definition, a severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that produces at least one of the following:

  • Wind gusts of 58 mph or greater
  • Hail 1" in diameter or larger
  • A tornado

You can review tornado safety, including the difference between watches and warnings here.

Photo: Christy Harmon

Severe Weather Facts:

Here are some facts about severe weather from the National Weather Service:

  • Illinois averages 860 reports of wind damage and large hail every year.
  • High winds from severe thunderstorms can cause more damage than about 75% of tornadoes that occur in Illinois.
  • Most lightning deaths occur while people are doing an outdoor activity such as fishing or being near or under a tree.
  • Illinois ranks 8th in the United States for the most lightning strikes per square mile.
  • Lightning has killed 107 people in Illinois since 1960.
  • Damaging winds have killed 43 people in Illinois since 1984 and injured 287 since 2000.
  • Last year, 13 people in Illinois were injured by damage from a severe thunderstorm.
  • Property damage from severe thunderstorms in Illinois last year was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Lightning kills about 50 people each year in the United States and injures hundreds more.
Photo: Clark Kessler

Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety:

Make sure you know the forecast and when thunderstorms could be moving through your area.

If you are outside:

  • Seek shelter immediately.
  • If you can't find shelter, find a low spot away from tall objects like trees and power lines.
  • If you are on the water, get to shore immediately and seek shelter when you are off of your boat.
  • If you are driving, safely pull over. Make sure you are far away from tall objects like trees and power lines.

If you are inside:

  • Stay away from any outside walls and windows.
  • Turn off an unplug electronics.
  • Do not shower until after lightning has stopped and the storm has passed.
Photo: Cindy Rule

Brian Walder

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