Lightning: Know These Tips Before it Strikes

Severe Weather Awareness Week in Alabama is Feb. 5-9. Throughout the week, the University will share information that you can use to help you stay safe when severe weather strikes.

#DYK: Lightning strikes in the United States about 25 million times annually.

Lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air or the ground. A typical lightning flash is about 300 million volts and about 30,000 amps. For comparison, the typical electrical current in most homes in the U.S. is 120 volts and 15 amps.

A lightning bolt can heat the air around it to 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit within a few millionths of a second. As this hot air expands, it causes thunder. So, by definition, all thunderstorms contain lightning and are dangerous. If you can hear thunder, you are likely within distance to be struck by lightning. So, always follow this rule: When thunder roars, go indoors.

#DYK: In the U.S., lightning is responsible for about 20 deaths per year. In 2023, a man was killed in north Alabama while he was working in a parking lot.

If you are outside when lightning strikes, follow these tips:

  • Go inside a building or get in a vehicle as soon as you can.
  • If you can’t get to shelter, avoid open areas like athletic fields and pastures.
  • Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility poles.
  • Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or fences.
  • If you’re with a group of people, spread out.

If you’re inside when it’s lightning, remember these tips:

  • Stay off balconies, porches and out of open carports and garages.
  • Unplug electrical appliances. A lightning strike on your home could destroy them.
  • Don’t use a computer that’s plugged in during a storm with lightning.
  • Do not wash your hands, take a shower or bath when there’s lightning in your area.
  • Bring your pets indoors.

Watch for more lightning safety tips