Gimme Shelter: What can you do if you’re caught in bad weather?


When storms roll in, they might bring along high winds, thunder and lightning and drops in temperature. Many people ride out stormsindoors, but some may find themselves suddenly caught in a storm and not know what to do.

For the unprepared, the potential for injury is significant. So it’s important to routinely brush up on surviving a storm when caught in one outdoors.


Lightning can pose a significant threat. Real Clear Science says the average bolt of lightning, striking from cloud to ground, carries roughly one billion joules of energy, 300 million volts and 30,000 amps. Lightning also generates temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun. According to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in North America, Florida, Texas and Colorado had the highest number of lightning-related fatalities between 2005 and 2014. Environment Canada says that roughly 10 people die in Canada each year because of lightning.

Finding shelter when lightning strikes is ideal but not always possible. If you cannot get indoors, the next best thing is to stay low to the ground. Lightning tends to strike the tallest items around. Therefore, staying put in a ditch or depression in the ground can protect you against a possible lightning strike.

NOAA says to stay away from tall, isolated trees, which can become lightning rods. The same can be said for seeking shelter under a tent or pavillion, as these structures are often metal and can conduct the lightning.

Cars can be a somewhat safe spot if there is nothing else available. The metal shell of the car will disperse the lightning to the ground, offers AccuWeather.

The National Weather Service says groups caught outside during lightning storms should spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members. Also, remember that, while water will not attract lightning, it can conduct and spread the charge, so avoid bodies of water and wet areas.


High winds also pose a safety risk. These winds may accompany thunderstorms, tornados or hurricanes. For those who are caught outside in high winds,

The Weather Channel advises taking cover next to a building or under a secure shelter.

Wind can easily bring down trees, branches, and power lines. It also may blow around outdoor furniture and other heavy items. FEMA says to stay away from balconies or elevated areas to avoid falling objects. Avoid roadways and train tracks when on foot, as gusts can blow people into the path of oncoming vehicles.

Electrocution from downed power lines is a potential side effect of high winds. Avoid anything that might be touching power lines.

Being indoors during severe weather is ideal but not always possible when a storm arrives unexpectedly. Knowing how to behave in these emergency situations can prevent injury and even death.