A severe thunderstorm in June 2003 brought hail the size of golf balls, rain that swelled creeks, rivers and lakes, and winds that downed trees and power lines. A 250 ft. galvanized steel cell phone tower atop Sand Mountain in Dade County was toppled by extremely high winds, and concrete pilings that had been buried 29 feet underground were pulled up like stubborn weeds.
All thunderstorms are dangerous because they can produce strong winds, lightning, tornadoes, hail and flash flooding. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes.
Georgia’s greatest threats from severe thunderstorms are damaging straight-line winds and large hail. Straight-line winds can reach speeds in excess of 100 mph and produce damage similar to a tornado. These winds occur about 19 days per year in Georgia and are most common in the spring and summer months, peaking in July.
Lightning is a deadly by-product of thunderstorms, occuring mostly during the warmer months of June through September. Lightning kills an average of 100 people a year throughout the United States.
Prepare for Thunderstorms and Lightning
- Familiarize yourself with the terms that are used to identify a thunderstorm hazard, including understanding the difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and a severe thunderstorm warning.
- A thunderstorm watch means there is a possibility of a thunderstorm in your area.
- A thunderstorm warning means a thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon. If you are advised to take shelter, do so immediately.
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
Make a Thunderstorm Plan
- If a thunderstorm is likely in your area, postpone outdoor activities.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
- Avoid showering or bathing during a thunderstorm. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Watch for darkening skies, lightning, increasing winds.
- Go quickly inside a home, building, or hard top automobile, if possible.
- If shelter is not available, go to the lowest area nearby and make yourself the smallest target possible but do not lie flat on the ground.
- If on open water, get to land and shelter immediately.
- Things to avoid include:
- Tall, isolated tree in an open area.
- Hilltops, open fields, the beach, a boat on the water, isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
- Anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles
- Listen to battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio or radio for the latest updates.
- Do not use electrical items such as computers or television sets as power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
- A corded telephone should only be used in an emergency, but cordless phones and cell phones are safe to use