If Outside When a Severe Thunderstorm Approaches

  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land, get off the beach, and find shelter immediately. Stay away from rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. When lightning strikes nearby, the electrical charge can travel through the water. Each year, numbers of people are killed by nearby lightning strikes while in or on the water.
  • Take shelter in substantial, permanent, enclosed structures, such as reinforced buildings. Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be. Avoid unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, golf carts, baseball dugouts and bleachers. While many people take shelter from rain in these locations, they are often isolated structures in otherwise open areas, and, therefore, a target for lightning. In addition, gazebos and picnic shelters are often poorly anchored and subject to being uprooted and blown around in strong thunderstorm winds. They also offer little protection from large hail.
  • If there are no reinforced buildings in sight, take shelter in a car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles. 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.
  • If you are in the woods, find an area protected by a low clump of trees. Never stand underneath a single large tree in the open. Be aware of the potential for flooding in low-lying areas.
  • As a last resort and if no structure is available, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding. Have as little contact with the ground as possible. Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible. Do not lie flat on the ground this will make you a larger target.
  • Avoid tall structures such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, and power lines. Lightning strikes the tallest objects in an area.
  • Stay away from natural lightning rods, such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, and camping equipment. Lightning is attracted to metal and poles or rods.
  • If you are isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike), drop to your knees and bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. Crouch on the balls of your feet. Do not lie flat on the ground. The electrical build-up just before lightning strikes will cause your hair to stand on end. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize contact with the ground.