Lightning is the 2nd most common cause of weather-related deaths in Texas, following only flooding. Many people are not aware of this, since it tends to strike only 1 or 2 victims at a time, and doesn't always make front-page headlines. Still, the numbers add up and everyone's level of concern needs to remain high, especially as we move into spring and summer.

There are several types of lightning discharges. Most discharges occur inside the storm - from the storm into the air, or from beneath the storm into the ground. But, stronger, brighter and more powerful bolts can also strike from the side of the turret of the storm, reaching the ground several miles away from the storm itself.

Watch for Storms

These cloud-to-air and within-cloud strokes can be seen from 20 to 30 miles away or more. At this point, watch closely to see if the storms are approaching. If you can hear thunder, or can see a stroke to the ground, you are within 10 to 15 miles, and in a high danger zone. You must have a safe location in mind and be ready to move to it quickly. If you are with a group, alert them to this threat and make sure everyone knows how to get to safety without delay.

You can estimate the distance to lightning by watching the flash and counting the number of seconds until thunder is heard. For every 5 seconds you count, the lightning is 1 mile away. Scientists estimate that lightning can travel at around 1 mile per minute.

Get to Safety

You need to allow plenty of time to go to safety. If you are with a large group that reacts slowly, the safety time required may be 10 to 15 minutes. If you are close to shelter and can move quickly, you may only need 5 minutes but this is only an estimate, and if the lightning is extremely intense, bright and frequent, you should begin to move earlier.

Lightning primarily tends to strike tall objects as well as metal objects, and can travel through moist soils for dozens of feet. To select the best shelter, move into a sturdy building and stay away from windows and doors. For increased protection, avoid electric appliances or metal plumbing. Stay off the telephone.

Vehicle & Lightening Safety
If you are outside, the interior of a car, truck or bus is relatively safe from lightning. To be safer, do not touch metal on the inside of the vehicle. The outside bed of a truck is a deadly and dangerous location.

Other vehicles are safer since their outside shells spread out to the lightning charge, weakening it and leaking it to the ground. It is not because thin rubber tires are grounding them. If you are outdoors with no shelter available as lightning approaches, stay low. Move away from hills and high places, and avoid tall, isolated trees. Do not touch metal objects, such as tennis rackets, and baseball bats, and golf clubs. Do not ride bicycles, or lean against fences or metal sheds.

Do not lean on a car or truck - get inside quickly. If you feel your hair suddenly stand on end, it means you may be a lightning target. Crouch low on the balls of your feet and try not to touch the ground with your knees or hands. Avoid wet areas that can conduct the lightning charge.