Each spring, Western Oregon and Southwest Washington receives an average of five to ten thunderstorms. Most of them are not considered "severe"; meaning the storm cells do not produce flooding, tornadoes, damaging winds or damaging large hail. However, dozens of lightning strikes occur... disrupting power and life in general. It's a good idea to refresh your memory of what to do if you are ever caught too close to lightning from a thunderstorm. Here are some common questions and answers regarding basic thunderstorm safety:
How close is the thunderstorm to my location?
If there is no large obstruction in your way, use the "30-second rule". When you see lightning, count until you hear the first clap of thunder. If the time is 30 seconds or less, the storm is less than six miles from you. Continue to count during the next strike. If the time between the strike and the clap of thunder shortens, the storm is moving toward your region.
Where is the best place to go if lightning occurs near me?
Solid buildings are best. If there is no building nearby, get inside a hard top automobile and keep the windows up. Get out of boats and away from water! If no shelter is available, avoid large trees, telephone poles or fences. The best thing to do is make yourself the lowest spot in the area. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. (strikes travel through the ground) Also, when indoors... turn off electrical appliances, televisions and avoid using the shower/bath or telephone.
What's the difference between a Severe Thunderstorm Watch and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning?
Your National Weather Service office will issue a "watch" when the environment is conducive to thunderstorms that may contain large hail, damaging winds or tornadoes. A "warning" is issued when a severe thunderstorm has already been "spotted" or detected on radar... and will be moving through your region soon. The intention is to give you time to act immediately to protect yourself and your property.