Destructiveness of and Preparedness for Severe Thunderstorms

By Y. Hope Osborn, Volunteer Contributor, American Red Cross

Tornadoes spawn pounding hail, missile winds, and flattening treks, but tornadoes are not the only weather-related destructive force. “Damage from severe thunderstorm winds account for half of all severe reports in the lower 48 states and is more common than damage from tornadoes,” reports The National Severe Storms Laboratory. Each year the U.S. averages 100,000 thunderstorms.

Hail of less than an inch damages plant life, and a chunk of ice the size of a softball falling at the normal rate of 120mph punches holes in roofs you expect to protect you from the storm. Severe thunderstorms blow through neighborhoods at speeds up to 58 mph or as great as 120 mph without a single tornado touching down. These winds down power lines, fell trees, and knock down trailers. Additionally, every thunderstorm produces lightning which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes.

Do not wait for a tornado watch or warning. Prepare, Act, and Recover for severe thunderstorms.

Prepare     Prepare Image

Learn about and watch your local community’s radio emergency warning system.

Know a safe place for your family to gather away from windows and glass doors.

Make a list of items to bring inside such as trash bins and potted plants that might become projectiles.

Have ready an emergency kit, including

  • water
  • non-perishable food
  • flashlight
  • battery-powered radio
  • extra batteries
  • first aid kit
  • multi-purpose tool
  • sanitation items
  • copies of personal documents
  • cell phone with chargers
  • emergency and family contact list
  • extra cash

Keep bushes and trees trimmed of damaged branches.

Protect your animals with building elements as safe as your own.

Get trained in first aid and how to respond to emergencies.

ActAct Image

Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for darkening skies, lightning flashes, or increasing wind.

Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur.

Take shelter in a substantial building or car with windows closed—not a mobile home-, if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.

Go inside, if thunder roars.

Avoid electrical equipment, relying on battery-operated equipment instead.

Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.

Do not use plumbing.

Try to safely exit and park, avoiding touching metal or other electrical conducting surfaces outside your car, if driving.

Avoid tall trees, water, metal objects, and high ground, if outside.


RecoverRecover Image

Never drive through a flooded roadway.

Stay away from risky storm-damaged areas.

Continue to listen to emergency updates on your radio for instructions and access areas.

Help people who may require special assistance, such as the elderly, disabled, or young.

Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.

Watch your animals closely, keeping them under your direct control.

Let your family know you are safe. You may also call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.

Lightning Strike

Anyone who sustains a lightning strike requires professional medical care. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Check the person for burns and other injuries, performing CPR if the person has stopped breathing.



Works Cited

“Severe Weather 101: Damaging Winds Basics.” The National Severe Weather Storms Laboratory, 3 Mar 2017.


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