Lightning Facts & Preparedness


National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Logo
Provided by NOAA’s
National Weather Service


  • Lightning occurs in all thunderstorms; each year lightning strikes the earth 20 million times.
  • The energy from one lightning flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months.
  • Most lightning fatalities and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
  • Many fires in the western United States are started by lightning.
  • The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit – hotter than the surface of the sun! The rapid heating and cooling of the air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave resulting in thunder.


  • Identify a safe place to take shelter.
  • Move to a sturdy building or car if lightning threatens. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles. Stay away from tall objects such as towers, fences, telephone poles, and power lines.
  • Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.
  • If caught outdoors and no shelter is nearby:
    • Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
    • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
    • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and place your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. DO NOT lie down.
    • If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.
  • Determine how far away a thunderstorm is from you by counting the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by 5 to determine the distance to the lightning in miles.
  • Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 seconds before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Do not take a bath or shower during a thunderstorm.
  • Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. This is your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.

Click for more information regarding lightning from the NOAA’s National Weather Service