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Severe Weather / Lightning

Severe Thunderstorms and Lightning

Did you know that lightning kills more people on average each year than hurricanes and tornadoes combined? Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a rain area.

The 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule:

During thunderstorms no place outside is safe but you can minimize your risk by assessing the lightning threat and taking the appropriate actions. Count the number of seconds from when you see the lightning flash until you hear the thunder. If you count 30 seconds or less you are in immediate danger. Even if you can't see the lightning, just hearing the thunder means lightning is likely within striking range.

If you are caught outdoors in a severe thunderstorm or when lightning threatens:

  1. Immediately seek shelter in a substantial building.
    1. DO NOT seek shelter under trees during thunderstorms.
    2. DO NOT seek shelter in unprotected open structures such as picnic pavilions, rain shelters or bus stops.
    3. If a substantial building is not available, a metal-topped vehicle with the windows up is your next best choice.
  2. Avoid contact with metal fences, metal bleachers, or metallic structures.
  3. Avoid using hard wired corded telephones or any electrical appliances. Cell phones are a safe alternative.
  4. Avoid plumbing—do not take a bath, shower, or wash your hands during a thunderstorm.
  5. Wait 30 minutes or more after hearing the last thunder before leaving the safe location.

If Caught Outdoors and No Shelter Is Nearby:

  1. Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles that is not subject to flooding.
  2. 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 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 swimming, get out of the water immediately.

REMEMBER: If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

Once you have taken shelter indoors, you should monitor a weather radio, commercial radio/television station, internet or other weather service provider. Even when a specific storm cell has passed beyond the area, conditions may still be right for high winds, lightning, and other hazardous weather conditions.

To call the Vanderbilt University Police Department in an emergency:

  • Dial 911 from any campus phone.
  • Dial (615) 421-1911 from any other phone.

See also the Tornado VU Emergency Guide, the Vanderbilt Severe Weather Warning System, Severe Weather References and Severe Weather Safety Links.