Virginia has been having quite a bout of thunderstorms and rain the past couple of weeks with more expected in the next several days. Severe weather like this can pose multiple safety hazards. When it comes to thunderstorms and other severe weather, your best defense is being prepared and knowing the facts. Our thunderstorm myths and facts will help you stay safe when it’s rainy and stormy outside.
MYTH: You are safe from lightning if you stay in your car during a storm because of the car’s rubber tires.
FACT: A fully enclosed car with a metal roof is a pretty safe place to be during a thunderstorm, but it has nothing to do with the tires. The metal roof and body of the car are what will protect you if the car is struck by lightning. The metal will absorb and distribute the shock on the outside of the vehicle while you are safe inside. Convertibles, motorcycles, or cars with fiberglass or other non-metal body components will NOT protect you. If you are inside a car when lightning strikes, do not touch any of the interior metal components as they could also become electrified.
MYTH: If you are caught outside far from shelter during a thunderstorm, you will be safest by lying down flat in an open area.
FACT: Lying or crouching down will not keep you safe from lightning, and it may expose you to dangerous ground currents in the event of a lightning strike. If you are caught out in the open during a storm, your safest course of action is to continue on to the nearest shelter as quickly as possible.
MYTH: It is safety drive or walk through floodwaters.
FACT: Thunderstorms and heavy rain can cause flash flooding. Floodwaters can have dangerous and unpredictable currents. It is NOT safe to attempt to cross them, either in a vehicle or on foot. If you are in a mountainous region during heavy rains, flash flooding can have even more dangerous consequences. Stay aware of your surroundings. Listen and look around carefully because flash flooding can happen without warning. If you believe flood conditions are possible, get to a safe location as quickly as you are able.
MYTH: It is okay to drive in a hailstorm.
FACT: Hail can cause extreme damage to both people and property. You should seek shelter immediately in the event of a hailstorm. Hail is also often accompanied by thunderstorms and tornadoes. Tune into a local radio or TV station for the most current information about severe weather in your area.
MYTH: It is safe to take shelter from tornadoes under highway overpasses.
FACT: Highway and interstate underpasses can actually concentrate tornado winds. Taking shelter in these locations can increase your risk. Try to get to a below-ground shelter immediately if there is a tornado in your area.
MYTH: If you are inside your house, you are completely safe from lightning.
FACT: Being inside a house or building is a very safe place to be during a thunderstorm, but no location is completely protected from the dangers of lightning. While weathering a storm, avoid using landlines or electrical appliances, do not take showers or baths, and avoid touching any other metal items. Electrical cords, metal piping, and other metal fixtures can be conductors for electricity. You will be safest if you avoid contact with these items.
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