The heat and humidity that tend to lurk around in the summer months around Virginia create the perfect recipe for thunderstorms. Occurring either late in the afternoonafter big black clouds slowly build up and rumbleor springing up out of nowhere, they often come with high winds and heavy rains.
According to FEMA, about 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe, meaning that they can do real damage to homes, property and people. This classification means there's either hail of three quarters of an inch in diameter, winds of more than 58 miles per hour or a tornado present.
Even though only a small percentage of storms are severe, FEMA also reminds us that all thunderstorms are dangerous.
Basically, every thunderstorm is accompanied by lightning, which injures up to 300 people in the U.S. per year and kills an average of 80. Along with that are other storm-related dangers, from tornados and hail to flash floods and wildfires.
Thunderstorms are obviously an inevitable part of our natural world, but there are some precautions that can greatly reduce health hazards and property damage, and therefore insurance claims, that can occur during any storm.
- Property Preparations: Clear property of dead or rotting trees or other hazards that could fall or blow away during a storm or high winds. Secure shutters if you have them or close blinds,
- Indoor Preparations: FEMA says there is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm, so if possible go inside when you hear the first rumble. If there is no shelter, stay in the car (hard-topped). Once indoors, it's important to avoid messing with water and electrical outlets, stay away from doors and windows, don't lie or lean on concrete, and unplug appliances to prevent surges.
- Outdoor Preparations: Stay away from hilltops, open fields, the beach, open water, natural lightning rods (like an isolated tree), anything metal, and isolated outbuildings.
- Storm Terms: FEMA recommends that you know your storm-related terms, often announced on local radio stations, so you will know how to react most effectively. A "Severe Thunderstorm Watch" announcement will tell you where and when a storm may take place. In this event, stay tuned for more info. A "Severe Thunderstorm Warning" announcement means that the storm has been reported to be in progress, and precautions should be taken immediately.