Is it safe to go out in a thunderstorm? Here's how to stay safe during thunder and lightning

Thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year, but it is during the summer months when thunderstorms are most likely in the UK. Credit: PA

Thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year, but it is during the summer months when thunderstorms are most likely in the UK.

They can cause some disruption, including flash flooding, difficult driving conditions, and of course lightning.

So how can we prepare and keep ourselves safe? Here's a list of suggestions.

Before the storm:

  • Unplug any non-essential appliances if you're not already using a surge protector as lightning can cause power surges.

  • If you can, find shelter. 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.

The advice is to unplug any non-essential appliances Credit: PA Images

During the storm:

  • Telephone lines can conduct electricity so avoid using the landlines.

  • If you're outdoors avoid water and find a low-lying open place which is a safe distance from trees, poles or metal objects.

  • Be aware of metal objects that can conduct or attract lightning, including golf clubs, golf buggies, fishing rods, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs, wire fencing and rails. If you are in a tent, try to stay away from the metal poles.

  • If you're in an exposed location squat close to the ground, with hands on your knees and with your head tucked between them. Try to touch as little of the ground with your body as possible and do not lie down on the ground.

  • If you feel your hair stand on end, drop to the above position immediately.

Avoid using a landline phone. Credit: PA Images

After the storm:

  • Avoid downed power lines or broken cables.

  • If someone is struck by lightning, they will often suffer severe burns. The strike also affects the heart, so check if they have a pulse.

Is it safe to be in my car during a thunderstorm?

If you are caught out in thunder and lightning, the Met Office advises that you wind up the windows and stay inside the vehicle. 

Contrary to popular belief, the reason isn't because cars have rubber tyres that insulate you from the ground.

It's due to the car acting like a Faraday cage.

Faraday cages are named after the scientist, Michael Faraday, who first observed how electrical currents are generally carried on the outside of conducting objects.

Anything inside the conducting object (the cage) is protected from the external electrical current. The same holds true for lightning when it strikes metal vehicles – the outer surface carries most of the electricity. 

However, convertible cars do not offer sufficient protection, even if its roof is closed. According to the car sales group, Arnold Clark, a soft-top car will not form a complete Faraday cage and therefore isn't safe.

If you're in a conventional metal-constructed car during thunder and lightning, those in the vehicle should not touch any metal objects within it.

Any door and window handles, radio dials, microphones, steering wheels, and other inside-to-outside metal objects should be left alone during the thunder and lightening.

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