A thunderstorm does not have to be severe to be dangerous. By definition, a severe thunderstorm is one that produces damaging wind gusts in excess of 58 mph or hail an inch in diameter or larger. That definition does not mention lightning. Any storm, whether it is severe or not, produces lightning that can be deadly.
North Carolina sees its fair share of lightning ever year. In fact, a 2016 study by the Insurance Information Institute found the state ranks fifth in the country for lightning related insurance claims.
Another study by the National Weather Service Office in Raleigh found lightning occurs more frequently around the Sandhills and in southeastern North Carolina. However, almost every city in the state records over 2,000 lightning strikes in an average year.
All these lightning strikes are not only dangerous to property, but they can also be dangerous to our lives if caught outside during a thunderstorm. According to the National Weather Service, an average of 400 people are struck by lightning each year in the U.S. Around 55 to 60 of those are killed.
Fortunately, it is pretty easy to stay safe during a thunderstorm. All you have to do is seek shelter inside a building or even in a vehicle.
It is important to remember that it does not have to be raining for lightning to strike. You may even still see blue in the sky, as lightning can strike several miles ahead of a thunderstorm.
If you are close enough to a storm to hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Anytime you’re outside and hear thunder, you should always immediately go inside. While inside, if you have not heard any thunder for at least 30 minutes, then it is likely safe to go back outside.