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Lightning is your most dangerous weather element in Colorado

DENVER — Lightning is the leading outdoor weather threat to Coloradans every year.

From 2006 to 2015, 17 people were killed in the state due to lightning – they were performing outdoor activities like golfing, hiking, climbing, etc. In 2016 there were two fatalities and 6 lightning strike injuries.

Lightning can strike you from many miles away. The standard is 10 miles but I’ve heard stories of people getting struck from greater distances.

If you hear thunder you MUST head to shelter and remain there for 30 minutes from the time you last hear thunder.

The National Weather Service has the following recommendations:

  • The safest thing for you to do if you are outside and lightning or thunder begins to occur is to immediately get inside a substantial fully-enclosed building.
  • Metal-topped cars and trucks also offer excellent protection from lightning. Once inside a substantial building or metal-topped vehicle, keep all windows and doors closed, and do not touch any metal inside the vehicle.
  • It is then recommended that you wait at least 30 minutes from the last rumble of thunder before returning outside.
  • Remember, there is no safe place outdoors when lightning is occurring. Do not seek shelter under picnic shelters, sports dugouts, porches, trees, carports or tents.
  • Once inside a substantial building, stay off corded telephones and away from electrical appliances since the electrical discharge can travel along the telephone lines and electrical wires to produce fatal results.
  • Stay away from water, including showers, tubs, and sinks. Even indoor swimming pools are not safe when lightning is occurring.
  • It is also recommended that you unplug sensitive electronics such as computers when lightning is expected to occur nearby. The best defense to protect yourself against a lightning strike is to plan ahead and avoid being caught where you might be vulnerable.

There is no warning, advisory, or alert for lightning. A severe thunderstorm warning applies to hail and wind, not a lightning threat. So please don’t wait for an official alert before seeking adequate shelter.

This is part of a series of articles relating to Colorado’s severe weather awareness week. Click for more on:

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