Thunderstorm safety - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Thunderstorm safety

D. Frye told wistv.com this tree fell on her car during storms that passed through the state on March 15, 2008. Luckily, no one was hurt. D. Frye told wistv.com this tree fell on her car during storms that passed through the state on March 15, 2008. Luckily, no one was hurt.
July, 2004 storm damages farm in Blair - picture courtesy of L.A. Coleman July, 2004 storm damages farm in Blair - picture courtesy of L.A. Coleman
Jessica C. shared this picture showing a utility pole  snapped in half after a storm in Elgin on March 15, 2008. It's important to stay away from downed power lines and call authorities right away. Jessica C. shared this picture showing a utility pole snapped in half after a storm in Elgin on March 15, 2008. It's important to stay away from downed power lines and call authorities right away.
Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage. Kelly F. says this picture shows her son's trampoline after storms moved through Prosperity March 15, 2008. Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage. Kelly F. says this picture shows her son's trampoline after storms moved through Prosperity March 15, 2008.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There is nothing that can be done to prevent severe weather from striking South Carolina, but being aware of the threats posed by thunderstorms, and being prepared to take immediate actions, can save lives.

Forecasters say the greatest threat of severe weather is between March and August (tornado season peaks March through May) and severe thunderstorms can strike any time of the year and any time of the day or night. .

A thunderstorm is formed from a combination of moisture, rapidly rising warm air and a force capable of lifting air such as a warm and cold front, a sea breeze or a mountain.

Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters or in lines. Thus, it is possible for several thunderstorms to affect one location in the course of just a few hours. Some of the most severe weather occurs when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.

Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms, but despite their 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.

Thunderstorms are most likely to occur in the spring and summer months and during the afternoon and evening hours but they can occur year-round and at all hours of the day or night.

The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are happening at any moment around the world.

Thunderstorm Watch
Conditions are right for severe thunderstorms to form. When your area is under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, continue to stay tuned to WIS News 10 and WIStv.com and use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.

Thunderstorm Warning
A Severe Thunderstorm has been spotted by a trained observer or detected on radar. Take action immediately. A storm is classified severe if it produces hail at least¾- inch in diameter, wind 58 mph or higher, or tornadoes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers these facts about thunderstorms:

  • They may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines.
  • Some of the most severe occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.
  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
  • About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe-one that produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado

What to Do Before a Thunderstorm

To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:

  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

The following are guidelines for what you should do if a thunderstorm is likely in your area:

  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
  • Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.

Avoid the following:

  • Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
  • Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.
  • Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Anything metal-tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles

What to Do During a Thunderstorm

If you are: Then:
In a forest Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
In an open area Go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.
On open water Get to land and find shelter immediately.
Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike) Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact it the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground.

Source: FEMA, National Weather Service

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