Lightning and Wildfires...
When thunder roars, go indoors.
Thunderstorms produce some of the most dangerous weather on earth, including tornadoes,
flash floods, large hail, and destructive straight-line winds. However, the most dangerous
aspect of thunderstorms in Colorado is usually lightning.
Since 1980, lightning has killed and injured more people in Colorado than any other
thunderstorm hazard, with an average of 3 fatalities and 13 injuries each year. These
numbers are probably higher as studies indicate that many lightning casualties, especially
injuries, are not reported.
In addition to producing human casualties, lightning also ignites most forest and rangeland
fires in the centennial state. Many of these wildfires occur when lightning is generated
from thunderstorms which produce little or no rainfall. This type of lightning is commonly
referred to as dry lightning.
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 building, such as a house, a store or a church.
A hard topped vehicle such as a car or truck also offers excellent protection from
lightning. Once inside a substantial building or hard 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.
A recent lightning safety study has shown that 95 percent of the people who were struck by
lightning while outdoors had a nearby substantial building or vehicle nearby. Remember,
there is no safe place outdoors when lightning is occurring. Do not seek shelter under
picnic shelters, dugouts, porches, trees, carports or tents. These types of structures are
not safe when lightning is occurring.
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, such as 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. Check the weather forecasts prior to venturing
out, especially if you are heading into the mountains. Plan your outdoor activities for
early in the day before thunderstorms typically develop. Stay tuned to NOAA All Hazards
Weather Radio and check the National Weather Service forecasts at WWW.WEATHER.GOV.
It is very important that all sports leagues and other outdoor groups have a lightning
response plan that is understood and consistently applied for the safety of the
participants. Part of the plan would include a designated weather watcher at each outdoor
event with the authority to postpone or cancel the event due to the threat of lightning.
Remember, if thunderstorms threaten, seek shelter in a substantial building or in an
enclosed metal roof vehicle.
For more information on lightning safety, please check out the web site
For more information about lightning in colorado, please go to the Colorado Lightning
Resource webpage at WWW.WEATHER.GOV/PUB/LTG.PHP