Storm Spotters and Lightning Safety

The United States sees thousands of severe thunderstorms each year. Severe thunderstorms may bring heavy rain, hail, strong winds and even tornadoes. Iowa sees its fair share of severe weather every year. In fact, we’ve already had some severe weather this "spring" *it hasn’t felt much like spring since the equinox.

Volunteers attend annual training sessions to refresh their knowledge of what to look out for if severe weather is possible. Training sessions are typically held before severe weather season. This year, our training sessions were held in various counties across eastern Iowa between late February and early April. 

Without spotters, there could be many more injuries, damage and other ill effects from the weather. The National Weather Service (NWS) uses reports from trained spotters to get a better idea of what storms are doing in various stages of their life span. Those reports likely help NWS send out warnings early enough to give people ample time to safely execute their severe weather plan.

However, even with the training they receive directly from NWS, the spotters must also be aware of their safety, as well. Thunderstorms go hand-in-hand with lightning most of the time. This hazard can be overlooked since it is so common within thunderstorms. 

According to the National Weather Service, the most common time to see lightning deaths is during the warmer months (June – August). Since 2008, lightning deaths happened during all months of the year. Over 50 people have died due to lightning strikes since 2016 alone, and we have seen a death in February from lightning so far in 2018.

Here are some tips to keep yourself safe from lightning, no matter if you’re a storm spotter or not:

  • If you are outside, get into or stay in a hard-topped vehicle for at least a half hour after the last rumble of thunder you hear.
  • Stay away from windows and doors: you do not want to be too close if a storm is tossing around debris outside
  • The safest place to be is inside when lightning is present. Even when a storm is approaching or has just passed, get or stay indoors.

More information:

Storm Spotter Info (NWS Des Moines office)
Lightning Information
Lightning Safety
Lightning Info for Kids
Lightning Safety Video (includes ASL for those who are hard of hearing)
Weather Safety for Deaf and Hard of Hearing



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