Thunderstorms accompanied by lightning are frequent occurrences
in Missouri during the spring and summer months. Thunderstorms may
occur singly, in clusters, or in lines. Some of the most severe
thunderstorms occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location
for an extended time. Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain
for 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.
Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far
as 10 miles away from any rainfall. "Heat lightning" is
actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder
to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught
outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1
in 600,000, but can be reduced even further by following safety
precautions. Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge
and should be attended to immediately.
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a thunderstorm
- Severe Thunderstorm Watches are issued to tell you when and
where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are issued when severe weather
has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings
indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the
path of the storm.
Preparedness tips before a thunderstorm
Create a plan for you and your family in the event of a thunderstorm—at
home, at work and at relatives’ or friends’ homes that
you visit frequently. Always be alert to changing weather conditions.
Remember, the following are guidelines if a thunderstorm is likely
in your area:
- Listen to radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather
reports and emergency information.
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Remember "If thunder roars, go indoors" because no
place outside is safe when lightning is in the area. Everyone
should stay indoors until 30 minutes after they hear the last
clap of thunder.
- 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.
- Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers
and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can
cause serious damage.
- 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.
- Long-term preparations: Remove dead or rotting trees and branches
that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
What to do during a thunderstorm
After getting inside a home or building:
- Avoid showering or bathing and any contact with plumbing. Plumbing
and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity. Do not wash your
hands, wash dishes or do laundry.
- Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use. Use a corded
telephone only for emergencies.
- Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.
- Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
- Because concrete conducts electricity, do not lie on concrete
floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
- Everyone should stay indoors until 30 minutes after they hear
the last clap of thunder.
If you find yourself outside when a thunderstorm hits, avoid
- 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.
- Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open
- 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.
If you are in certain situations, do the following:
- 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.
What to do if you have unmet needs following a thunderstorm
Throughout the recovery period, it is important to monitor local
radio or television reports and other media sources for information
about where to get emergency housing, food, first aid, clothing,
and financial assistance. The following section provides general
information about the kinds of assistance that may be available.
Direct assistance to individuals and families may come from any
number of organizations
Other volunteer and faith-based organizations
These organizations provide food, shelter, supplies and assist
in clean-up efforts.
Detailed additional information can be found at the following websites:
in 3 Program also provides free family safety guides to help
prepare your family and household or call (636) 456-3786 or (636)
456-7474 to order a free family safety guide. The family safety
guide is available in several languages.