FOR KIDS: Thunderstorm Safety
It’s important to keep children calm in the event of severe weather. The sound of thunder can be especially frightening for young children. Take the scariness away by teaching them what to expect during a thunderstorm and how to be safe.
What causes thunder?
Children may wonder what causes lightning and thunder, and why they can see a flash before they hear a thunderclap. That's because lightning moves so fast, it takes the sound a bit to catch up!
Lightning is an electric current. It travels at 186,000 miles per second (the speed of light). Lightning passes through the air, heating it to a temperature that can be 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- five times the temperature of the sun!
Because of the heat, the air expands with an explosive force that makes the loud peal we know as thunder.
Teach the five-second rule
Want to know how far away a storm is? It's easy! Count the number of seconds between when you see lightning flash and hear thunder boom. Every 5 seconds equals 1 mile. So ...
... If it takes 5 seconds between the flash and boom, the storm is 1 mile away.
... If it takes 10 seconds between the flash and the boom, the storm is 2 miles away.
... If it takes 15 seconds between the flash and the boom, the storm is 3 miles away.
Kid-friendly storm safety advice
At home ...
- Don’t run water inside the house during a thunderstorm. Avoid washing your hands or taking a bath or shower. It's not common, but electricity from lightning has been known to come inside through plumbing. Better to be safe.
- If you see or hear a thunderstorm coming, go inside a sturdy building or car. Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be. If no building is nearby, a hard-top vehicle will offer some protection. It's much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
- If you can’t get inside, or if you feel your hair stand on end -- which means lightning is about to strike -- hurry to a low, open space immediately. Crouch down on the balls of your feet, place your hands on your knees and lower your head. Do NOT lie flat.
- Stay away from tall things like trees, towers, fences, telephone lines, or power lines. They attract lightning. Never stand underneath a single large tree out in the open, because lightning usually strikes the highest point in an area.
- Stay away from metal things that lightning may strike, such as umbrellas, baseball bats, fishing rods, camping equipment, and bicycles. Lightning is attracted to metal and poles or rods.
- Stay away from water. If you are boating or swimming, get to land immediately. Stay away from rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water and get off the beach. Water and saturated sand conduct electricity.