During a Storm or Tornado

Watch vs. Warning

A watch means conditions are right. That's the time to monitor the weather and check your preparations. If you live in or near the designated area, be especially alert when combinations of watches and warnings are issued at the same time.

A warning means now it's happening. It's time to act.

Learn more about common weather altering terms.

Tornado - Credit: OAR / ERL / National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)


All storms produce lightning. If you can hear thunder, you can be hit by lightning and need to take precautions.

Lightning Myths and Facts

  • Myth: If it is not raining, then there is no danger from lightning.
  • Fact: Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • Myth: The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being struck by lightning.
  • Fact: 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. Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Myth: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.
  • Fact: Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
  • Myth: "Heat-lightning" occurs after very hot summer days and poses no threat.
  • Fact: What is referred to as "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!

Safety Rules

Most lightning deaths and injuries occur during common outdoor activities, including sports, unloading vehicles, mowing lawns, or standing underneath a tree. Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000, but could be reduced by following safety rules:

  • The best way is to postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent.
  • If outside, move inside a sturdy building. Once inside avoid doors, windows, and metal objects. Do not shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or convertible automobiles. Avoid tall objects such as telephone or light poles, towers, fences, and power lines.
  • Utility lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Avoid using electrical appliances. Do not bath or shower during a thunderstorm.
  • If no sturdy building is available, get inside a hard top vehicle. Keep the windows up and do not touch metal.
  • If driving, stay in your automobile. An enclosed automobile offers reasonably good protection from lightning.
  • If you're in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.
  • While outdoors, if your hair stands on end or your skin tingles, lightning may be about to strike. Crouch down on the balls of your feet. Put your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. This makes as small a target as possible and minimizes contact with the ground. Do not lie down flat.

The 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule

Go inside if you hear thunder less than 30 seconds after the lightning flash. Stay inside until 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.

How Far Away is it

Count the number of seconds between the flash and the thunder. Divide the number of seconds by 5 to get the distance to the lightning in miles.

Flash Flooding

Any storm can produce flash flooding. Minimize your risk by avoiding areas that are most likely to fill with and channel swiftly moving water, such as low road crossings, storm drains, ditches, ravines, dry creek beds, or culverts. The leading causes of flood related fatalities are:

  • Driving through flood water
  • Walking in or near flood water

Shelter Areas

Find where to best seek shelter from a storm.