Be safe this spring

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2019

It’s almost spring in Virginia, and temperatures are predicted to rise into the 70s Thursday and Friday.

Those who know how weather works or have lived here for more than a year know that means that thunderstorms are likely. And due to the fact they are a fairly frequent occurrence around here during spring and summer, many people tend to overlook them as a serious threat.

According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, 261 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States between 2006 and 2013. Lightning killed 62 and injured 252 in Virginia alone from 1959 to 2003. The chance of dying in a lightning strike may be vanishingly small, but it’s still an avoidable tragedy. Thunderstorms bring other dangers, too, like hail, winds strong enough to down trees, flash flooding and tornadoes.

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Here are some terms to know:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: large hail, winds of 58 miles per hour or greater, or a tornado are possible in the area in the next three to six hours.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: large hail, winds, 58 mph or greater, or a tornado are happening or imminent.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management urges folks to use the 30/30 rule. If the time between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder is 30 seconds or less, then lightning is close enough to strike you and you should go inside immediately. You should then wait 30 minutes from the last flash of lightning before venturing back outside.

Local residents should also heed these tips:

  • Listen to local TV or radio for weather watches or warnings. The Suffolk News-Herald also typically posts about weather watches and warnings on its Facebook page.
  • Secure outdoor items that could blow away.
  • Plumbing, bathroom fixtures and corded telephones can conduct electricity and cause serious injury.
  • Unplus computers and television sets to prevent power surges.
  • If the power goes out, use a flashlight or similar device rather than candles.