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Summer Showers Bring…Lightning and Thunder! Tips to Stay Safe in a Storm.

Summer is rapidly approaching on Cape Cod, and with it comes a heightened risk for thunder, lightning, and even tornados.

Did you know? Lightning can strike anyplace on Earth. In fact, there are about 6,000 lightning strikes every minute, which is more than 8 million strikes every day. You can protect yourself and your loved ones if you know what to do when you see lightning or when you hear thunder as a warning.

Learn indoor and outdoor safety tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from lightning.

When thunder roars, go indoors! Move from outdoors into a building or car with a roof.

  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings but remember, a thunderstorm can materialize rapidly. If you hear thunder in the distance, find a safe location and check the radar.
  • Avoid using electronic devices connected to an electrical outlet.
  • Avoid running water.
  • Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Do not drive through flooded roadways. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Report them immediately.
  • Do NOT lie on the ground or shelter under a tree.
  • If no shelter is nearby, crouch down into a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears and your feet closely together.

Lightening Science: Five Ways Lightning Strikes People (Information from the National Weather Service)

Thinking about HOW lightning can pose a hazard to humans is useful to understanding the safety risk lightning poses. When envisioning a lightning strike, most people imagine a direct strike while being the tallest entity in an open field or body of water. Surprisingly, this is the LEAST common type of lightning strike. Learn more below.

Direct Strike

A person struck directly by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel. Most often, direct strikes occur to victims who are in open areas. Direct strikes are not as common as the other ways people are struck by lightning, but they are potentially the most deadly. 

Side Flash

A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from taller object to the victim. In essence, the person acts as a “short circuit” for some of energy in the lightning discharge. Side flashes generally occur when the victim is within a foot or two of the object that is struck. Most often, side flash victims have taken shelter under a tree to avoid rain or hail. 

Ground Current

When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface. This is known as the ground current. Anyone outside near a lightning strike is potentially a victim of ground current. In addition, ground current can travel in garage floors with conductive materials. Because the ground current affects a much larger area than the other causes of lightning casualties, the ground current causes the most lightning deaths and injuries


Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces. Metal does not attract lightning, but it provides a path for the lightning to follow. Most indoor lightning casualties and some outdoor casualties are due to conduction. Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, water faucets and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.


While not as common as the other types of lightning injuries, people caught in “streamers” are at risk of being killed or injured by lightning. Streamers develop as the downward-moving leader approaches the ground. Typically, only one of the streamers makes contact with the leader as it approaches the ground and provides the path for the bright return stroke; however, when the main channel discharges, so do all the other streamers in the area. If a person is part of one of these streamers, they could be killed or injured during the streamer discharge even though the lightning channel was not completed between the cloud and the upward streamer. 


As we all know, Cape Cod is not a stranger to tornadoes. They can and do spin up now and again, making it important that we all understand tornado safety.

First and foremost, be informed by receiving alerts, warnings, and public safety information before, during, and after emergencies. The National Weather Service issues tornado watches and warnings to alert the public of potential severe weather.

Also, it is important to understand the difference between watch and warning, so you know what to do to stay safe:

Tornado Watch 

Tornadoes are possible based on weather conditions.

  • Pay attention to changing weather conditions and be prepared to shelter immediately.

What to do during a tornado watch:

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to a local news station for the latest information. Follow instructions given by public safety officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Although sometimes tornadoes develop so rapidly that there is no advance warning, common signs of an approaching storm include:
    • A revolving, funnel-shaped cloud
    • A dark, almost greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud
    • A loud roar, similar to a freight train
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs like auditoriums, cafeterias, supermarkets, and shopping malls.
  • Be prepared to take shelter immediately — make sure you retrieve your emergency kit.
  • Consider postponing outdoor activities.
  • Secure or bring in outdoor objects (patio furniture, children’s toys, trash cans, etc.) that could be blown away or cause damage during strong winds.

Tornado Warning

A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

  • Seek shelter immediately.

If You Are Inside

  • In a residence or small building, go to a pre-designated area such as a basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
    • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • If you are in a school, hospital, high-rise building or other public place, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest possible floor.
  • If you are in a mobile home, get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location like the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building. Mobile homes offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • Do not open windows.

If You Are Outside or In a Vehicle

  • If possible, go to a nearby sturdy building.
  • Consider taking cover in a stationary vehicle. Put your seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
  • Consider lying flat in a nearby ditch or low-lying area and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and seek shelter immediately.
  • Do not go under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch for flying debris, which can cause injuries or fatalities.

What to do After a Tornado

  • Continue to monitor media for emergency information.
  • Follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • If you are trapped, try calling or texting for help. Try tapping on a pipe or wall or using a whistle to help rescuers locate you.
  • Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies, including downed power lines and gas leaks.
  • Call 2-1-1 to obtain shelter locations and other disaster information.
  • Stay away from downed utility wires. Always assume a downed power line is live.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and areas until authorities deem them safe.
  • Check your home for damage:
    • If you believe there is a gas leak, go outdoors immediately, and do not turn electrical switches or appliances on or off.
    • If your home or property is damaged, take photos or videos to document your damage, and contact your insurance company.
  • If your power is out, follow our power outage safety tips.
    • Report power outages to your utility company.
    • Use generators and grills outside because their fumes contain carbon monoxide. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working as it is a silent, odorless, killer.
  • If phone lines are down, use social media or texting to let others know you are OK.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions and those who may need additional assistance.

Additional Resources:

Be Prepared for a Thunderstorm, Lightning or Hail


National Weather Service: Lightning Safety for You and Your Family: Lightning-Brochure18.pdf (

Lightning Safety for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

CDC: Frequently Asked Questions about Lightning