- Summer weather conditions such as thunderstorms and tornadoes can catch people off guard and be very dangerous.

Heed this advice to stay safe during storms
Storm safety advice


So, what should you do when a thunderstorm is approaching? The National Weather Service provides the following advice:

•If you are already indoors, stay indoors. If you're outside and can get to your house or another sturdy shelter, do so quickly. Once indoors, unplug appliances, because utility lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Don't take a shower, and use the phone only in an emergency.

•If you can't get indoors, the hard exterior of an automobile will provide some shelter from a thunderstorm. A convertible is not a safe shelter during a storm.

•If you can't get either indoors or to a car, look for a low and open space, away from trees, poles and fences. If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, a lightning strike is imminent, and you should make yourself as small as possible by crouching on the balls of your feet and wrapping your arms over your head.

•If you're in the woods, seek shelter under low trees or brush. If you're swimming or in a boat, get out of the water as quickly as possible and seek a safe shelter. If you're caught on the golf course, stay away from your clubs, cart, water or lone trees. If there are no shelters, find a low-lying area and stay there.

•In the event that you're in your car during a thunderstorm, stay there, but don't touch any metal parts. Pull over in the event of hard rain or excessive wind and never drive through standing water if you can't tell how deep it is. If you are in your car in the area of a flash flood, the best option is to leave your car and search for higher ground.

Six inches of water can cause loss of control and stalling in most passenger cars. A foot of water will make most cars float, and two feet of rushing water can sweep away a vehicle, even a sport utility vehicle.


If you are under a tornado warning, the National Weather Service recommends that you follow this advice:

•Move to a basement or other low area that is away from windows. If you are in a mobile home and a tornado is predicted, try to find a sturdier shelter. Mobile homes are notoriously poor shelters from tornadoes.

•If you don't have a basement, crouch down in an interior hallway or small room on the lowest level. Stay away from windows.

•If you're outside and can't find shelter with a tornado approaching, seek a low-lying area, such as a ditch or depression. If you're on a golf course, a sand trap is a good option for shelter. Lie flat and wrap your arms around your head. Don't however, lie in ditch that's against a fence or wall, as the structure could blow over and crush you.

•If you're in your car and a tornado is approaching, do not try to outrun it. Get out of your car and seek a low-lying area that is away from the vehicle. Never take shelter under an overpass, because winds can intensify within them.

Flash floods

Flash floods result when storms drop a large amount of water very quickly.

They can occur with very little warning, and can be extremely dangerous because water moves very quickly. If you see water rising, move immediately to a higher place. Never let children play in an area prone to flooding if there is the possibility of a storm.


In the event of a hailstorm, stay inside and do not try and protect your house. Close your blinds to help prevent glass from breaking into your house if a window is struck by a large piece of hail. Stay away from skylights, windows and doors.

If you're caught in a hailstorm and can not get indoors, seek shelter under brush or small trees, but stay away from tall objects, as hail is usually accompanied by lightning.

Don't take chances.

If the weather is fair, many of us will be outside today. We'll enjoy the company of friends and family, perhaps watch a parade with a child, grill some hamburgers or light up a sparkler to celebrate the holiday.

While we revel in spending long days outside at this time of year, it's important to maintain awareness of the potential for danger from summer storms, particularly those that occur with little warning.

Many people fear major storm events, such as hurricanes, and take significant steps to prepare for them. Readiness in the event of an approaching storm is key to surviving the storm and minimizing damage, according to experts. And, because hurricanes occur over a period of time, they can be tracked and their paths predicted, giving those in their paths time to take the necessary precautions.

Thunderstorms and tornadoes, however, are more challenging to prepare for because they're often unpredictable and catch people off guard.

"The larger the storm, the easier it is to predict," said John Frye, a meteorologist who will join the geography department at Kutztown University for the fall term as an assistant professor. "Hurricanes last days to weeks, but thunderstorms can last only a few hours, and tornadoes only minutes. That makes it difficult to say where they'll occur. We're good at predicting that they will occur, but it's difficult to say exactly where."

According to the National Weather Service, an average of 100,000 thunderstorms occur throughout the United States every year, along with 5,000 floods and 1,000 tornadoes. Potential dangers of those storms, of course, include lightning, hail, high winds and dangerous waters.

Lightning is a major concern in thunderstorms, Frye said, and everyone, including children, should be aware of its potential danger.

"There's definitely a possibility that you could be hurt or suffer fatal injury," Frye said.

Pennsylvania ranks third among the 50 states in the most combined deaths and injuries caused by lightning, according to the National Weather Service. Only Florida and Michigan had more lightning-related deaths and injuries.

And, Frye said, a thunderstorm doesn't have to be right on top of you before lightning becomes a threat.

"If you can hear thunder, you're in the danger range of being struck by lightning," he said.

Frye cited the National Weather Service's "30-30 Rule," which advises people to get inside when there is 30 seconds between a lightning flash and the following clap of thunder, and not go back outside until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

"That's good advice," Frye said. "You don't want to take chances in a thunderstorm."

The National Weather Service issues watches and warnings for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. A watch, explained Frye, is when atmospheric conditions are favorable for storms of these types and the area in which they're likely to occur has been identified. A warning, he said, is when a storm has been identified by trained spotters or radar, and is in progress.