What to do if you get caught in a thunderstorm while on foot

In the words of Queen: “Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening”. But before you start shouting for Galileo, it’s worth noting that there are things you can do to help you stay safe if you ever happen to be caught out in a thunderstorm. Luckily, weather warnings – like those we have been seeing over the past week or two – should give you plenty of notice as to when a thunderstorm is due and will help you plan accordingly.

Though sometimes you can be caught unawares, so if that happens here are some top tips to help you out… Do you have any more useful tips for surviving a thunderstorm? Ever been struck by lightning?

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1. Seek shelter if possible

When you hear thunder you are already within range of where the next ground flash may occur.

Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the centre of a storm. Shelter includes homes, cafes, restaurants and other sturdy enclosed buildings, though you could get inside a hardtop, all-metal car, truck or SUV. Keep your pets safe by bringing them inside.

Outdoor pet houses, like a kennel or dog house, aren’t lightning or hail proof.

2. Stay well away from trees, though

Trees are not the safe shelter we are talking about – they are actually extremely dangerous during a thunderstorm. Also avoid water, poles and any metal objects.

Find a low-lying open place that is a safe distance away from these things.

Avoid sheltering under a tree during thunder and lightning

3. Squat close to the ground

If you find yourself in an exposed location, experts suggest squatting close to the ground with your hands on your knees and your head tucked between them. Covering your ears will also protect yourself from any damage or hearing loss.

Try to touch as little of the ground with your body as possible and avoid lying down.

4. Be aware of your hair

If you feel your hair stand on end, you should immediately drop into the squatting position we mentioned above.

5. Be wary of metal objects

Golf clubs, golf buggies, fishing rods, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs, wire fencing and rails can all conduct and even attract lightning.

So avoid taking your bike for a spin, venturing out for a round of golf or even putting up your brolly (however wet you may be). If you’re out for a stroll with your little one in a pushchair, the best thing to do is to get them somewhere safe as soon as possible.

Metal poles, electrical towers, cables and fences can all be dangerous during a thunderstorm

6. Don’t go out on a boat

As well as golfing and rod fishing, you should avoid boating on a large stretch of water, such as a lake.

Water and electricity do not mix, so if you’re swimming head straight to shore

7. If you’re in a group of people…

…Spread out.

8. Avoid using your mobile phone or other electronic devices

When you make it to shelter, avoid running water too, as water supplies can even conduct electricity.

9.

Take care after a thunderstorm

Avoid any downed power lines or broken cables. If someone has been struck by lightning, know that lightning victims aren’t electrified as they would a normal electrocution. You won’t be electrocuted yourself if you touch someone who has been struck by lightning, so if you can, you should check for a pulse while dialling 999.

Driving in a thunderstorm: Expert advice

Mark Greening, Driving Expert from GoCompare says:

“The main piece of advice is if you can avoid travelling during a storm, then do. If you are caught out or need to drive, be prepared to pull over if it starts to become hazardous and wait for it to be safe. “If you have to drive, allow more time so you can take it slow and pause your journey if you get caught in a bad patch.

“Always keep both hands on the wheel and slow down to maintain control of the car. Winds and rain can be so persistent they can cause your car to drift or veer with no warning. “Driving slowly will also increase the distance between you and the driver in front as you may lose visibility. “Always reduce your speed slowly and avoid harsh braking or sharp steering. When braking is essential, keep it smooth and gentle – being aware and anticipating the road ahead is the key.

“If you start to skid or lose control, release the brakes and turn smoothly into the slide (ie if the rear is skidding right, gently steer right). “If you live in an area that is prone to flooding and you’re unable to move your vehicle, don’t try to start it if your car is submerged. “Drain the water if you can and allow the vehicle to dry out as much as possible.”

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Met Office explains what is/isn’t safe in a car during a lightning storm

According to the Met Office: “If you are caught out in thunder and lightning it is advised that you wind up the windows and stay inside your car.

This is because in the vast majority of cars with a metal roof and frame, the frame will act as a conductive Faraday cage, passing the current around the passengers inside and on to the ground.

  • Soft-top convertibles, with their fabric roofs, are the most at risk and could catch fire if struck by lightning
  • Be aware that current can travel through other parts of many modern cars, including GPS and radio systems.

    Cars with metal interior handles, foot pedals and steering wheels can also carry current

  • Cars can be damaged both internally and externally by lightning strikes

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