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Thunderstorms are dangerous because they can produce strong winds, lightning, tornadoes, hail, and flooding. Knowing what to do in the event of a thunderstorm can keep you and your family safe. Understanding the health hazards that can occur because of a thunderstorm can keep you and your family healthy.

How to Prepare

Have a plan and supplies ready. Having a plan and supplies in place for you and your family before any emergency happens will make it easier to return to your normal life. Thunderstorms can knock out power and make travel difficult. Knowing that you planned ahead of time for you and your family to stay safe and healthy can make a big difference. Learn more about planning and emergency supplies.

Understand Watches and Warnings. Keep an eye out for bad weather, and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. If a severe thunderstorm is happening or about to happen, there a couple of terms you need to know:

  • A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that severe thunderstorms are possible in your area. This gives you time to make plans to move to a safe location if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
  • A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is an urgent announcement that a severe thunderstorm has been reported or is imminent, and you should take cover right away.

How to Stay Healthy

Get inside before the storm. Seek shelter in your home, a nearby building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible) if there is a severe thunderstorm. Injury can still happen inside a car if lightning strikes, but it is still safer than being outside.

Prevent injuries after a storm. After a severe storm, watch out for and avoid downed power lines, damaged gas lines, or electrical equipment. These hazards can cause an electrocution, fire, or explosion.

Know what to do if the power goes out.

  • Never use a grill or a portable generator inside. When the power goes out, people rely on portable generators for power, and grills to heat food. Using these appliances properly will keep you and your family safe in an emergency. Portable generators, outdoor grills, and other sources of fuel for heat or electricity cause carbon monoxide to build up if you are inside your home or garage. Carbon monoxide gas is colorless, odorless, and deadly. Always keep your grills and generators at a safe distance away from your home. Even setting up next to an open window can allow for carbon monoxide to get inside your home.
  • Keep food safe when the power goes out. If the power has been out for 4 or more hours, throw away any perishable items in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leftovers, etc. Food in the freezer may stay safe for up two days if ice crystals remain in the center of the food.  Visit for charts about what refrigerated foods and frozen foods are safe after a power outage.

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