Thunderstorm Safety

Published 04/24 2014 05:36PM

Updated 04/24 2014 05:45PM

Now that spring has sprung, the threat of thunderstorms has returned. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) defines a thunderstorm as, “a local storm, invariably produced by a cumulonimbus cloud and always accompanied by lightning and thunder, usually with strong gusts of wind, heavy rain, and sometimes with hail.” Here in Pennsylvania, thunderstorms are increasingly common this time of year due to warmer temperatures combined with increased moisture. When thunderstorms become more common so do the occurrences of watches and warnings.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) defines a severe thunderstorm watch as “an area where an organized episode of hail one inch in diameter or larger and/or damaging thunderstorm winds are expected during a three to eight hour period.” After a watch is issued it is up to the National Weather Service (NWS) to upgrade the watch to a warning, though a warning can be issued without a watch already being in effect. A severe thunderstorm warning means that a thunderstorm producing hail one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceeding 58 mph has been observed either on radar or by weather spotters. 

It is important to take necessary actions to remain safe in a thunderstorm, as they can also produce tornadoes and flash flooding without warning. Keep in mind the following:
•    If you see lightning outdoors and cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, get indoors immediately.
•    Once inside, close windows and blinds.
•    Avoid turning on faucets, as bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
•    Make sure to remain indoors for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last rumble of thunder.
•    If you cannot get inside during a thunderstorm stay away from single tall trees, open fields, and isolated structures.

Just because a watch is issued does not always mean that it will be upgraded to a warning, but it is important to remember the above safety measures. Now that thunderstorm season is upon us, make sure to stay updated on current conditions.

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