All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. While lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. In 2010 there were 29 fatalities and 182 injuries from lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.
Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities – more than 140 annually – than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- 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.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
- Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
- Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
- Unplug any electronic equipment well before the storm arrives.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips for Home
Hurricanes can be dangerous, listening to the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage.
Know your Emergency Shelters
Contact the National Disaster Office for the closest shelters.
Have disaster supplies on hand
Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit
Non-perishable (canned food) and water
Non-electric can opener
Cash and credit cards
Protect your windows
Permanent shutters are the best protection. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood–marine plywood is best–cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. Do this long before the storm.
Trim back branches from trees
Trim branches away from your home and cut all dead or weak branches on any trees on your property.
Check into your Home and Auto Insurance
Confirm that policies are valid and coverage is appropriate.
Make arrangements for pets and livestock
Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on animal shelters.
Develop an emergency communication plan
Make sure that all family members know what to do. Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call police or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information. In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Hurricane Watches and Warnings
A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.
DURING A HURRICANE WATCH
Listen to the radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
Check emergency supplies.
Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys, and garden tools and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows.
Remove outside antennas and satellite dishes.
Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
Store drinking water in clean jugs, bottles, and cooking utensils.
DURING A HURRICANE WARNING
If you need to evacuate your home, lock up home and go to the nearest shelter.
Take blankets and sleeping bags to shelter.
Listen constantly to a radio or television for official instructions.
Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container on the highest level of your home.
Stay inside, away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy. Avoid open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
If power is lost, turn off major appliances to reduce power “surge” when electricity is restored.
Hurricane Survival Kit
by Dr. Rick Knabb
During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.
Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:
- At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
- Non-perishable food
- Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
- Manual can opener
- First aid kit
- Prescription and non-prescription medicines
- Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
- Battery-powered radios and flashlights
- Plenty of batteries
- Extra cash
- Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)
As residents prepare for Hurricane Season, they are urged to trim trees and remove yard trash BEFORE a storm threatens. This tip is to prevent objects from becoming dangerous projectiles during a hurricane. In rural communities, tree and shrub trimmings, grass clippings, palm fronds, trees and tree stumps start to accumulate.
Some residents do not have access to county or commercial solid waste collection service for yard trash. Rural residents have two options: (1) Self-hauling yard trash to the neighborhood trash and recycling centers (2) Burning Yard Trash. Yard trash burning might be a cost effective solution to hauling the debris away. Burning small amounts of yard waste does not require an authorization from the Florida Forest Service, but you should check with your local city, county or Florida Forest Service officials to see if there are any restrictions in your area.
Many people do not know or are not aware of Florida’s outdoor burning regulations. Familiarize yourself with the burning regulations in your area. If you are to burn here a few tips to keep in mind:
-Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is out before you leave
-Keep a shovel and water hose handy
-Don’t burn on windy days or when the humidity is below 35%.
-The yard trash material intended to be burned must be generated on the premises of the burn site.
-The fires must not cause smoke, soot, odors, visible emissions, heat, flame, radiation, or other conditions to the degree that they become a nuisance or safety hazard.
-The fire must be started after 9 a.m. and be out by one hour after sunset.
-Your fire must be contained to an 8 foot diameter pile or non-combustible barrel and must be at least 25 feet from forests, 25 feet from your house, 50 feet from a paved public road and 150 feet from other occupied buildings.
-If your fire escapes, you may be held liable for suppression costs and damage to the property of others. Wildfires can occur all year round in Florida. During the summer months wildfires typically are smaller in size due to the wet season.
For additional fire prevention tips, burning rules and regulations contact your local Florida Forest Service office (Vero Beach 772-778-5085; Port St. Lucie 772-468-3915; Stuart 772-221-4045; Okeechobee 863-462-5160; Sebring 863-655-6407; Palmdale 863-674-4000). Please visit our website at www.floridaforestservice.com