Image of homes in a neighborhood with lightning striking from above.

How to Prepare for a Thunderstorm

Wondering how to efficiently prepare your loved ones and your home for a thunderstorm? Learn the steps to take to ensure you're ready.

It’s easy to let your guard down as spring rolls in and a severe thunderstorm warning is issued for your neighborhood. But if you’ve ever been caught off-guard by a major storm without a raincoat, in addition to getting soaked quickly, it can leave you rattled.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a storm system lasting six days in May of 2018 did a fair amount of damage to states across the United States. In less than a week, hail, tornadoes, straight-line winds and large volumes of rain caused around $2.5 billion in insurance claims. It’s a storm that’s been associated with some rather sobering statistics:

  • 600,000 homes and businesses lost power
  • Wind gusts exceeded 58 miles per hour
  • Hundreds of localized, but destructive hailstorms
  • 28 verified tornadoes
  • Extensive damage to homes and buildings in effected areas

Safety Tips for Before a Thunderstorm

You may have a lot to do before bad weather arrives, but how do you prepare for a thunderstorm in advance? During the final weeks of winter, there are ways to improve the safety of your home.

Stay informed of the forecast

Download a weather app that can give you real-time warnings and crowd-sourced reports that pinpoint areas of concern. Try using DarkSky, WonderMap or Weather Underground for early warnings and frequent National Weather Service updates.

Prepare your home ahead of thunderstorm watches

Cut low-hanging or dead tree branches that threaten to fall onto your roof or driveway. Explore our ideas on other ways to reduce severe storm damage by preparing your home in advance.

Check in on your generator

Fire up and test your backup or portable generator, and be sure you’ve got fuel safely stored for it before the heavy rain hits.

Make a family disaster kit

Pack a natural disaster supply kit in a plastic tub, suitcase or duffle bag that best fits your family. Include food and water, a change of clothing, first aid supplies and a NOAA Weather radio. You’ll have what you need to shelter in place — for something like a tornado — and it works like a “go bag” if you need to evacuate for a hurricane or wildfire.

Revise your homeowners policy now

You should prepare for a thunderstorm by sitting down with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and reviewing your coverage options. It’s a great time to consider flood insurance so you’re covered before the water starts to rise.

How to Stay Safe During a Thunderstorm

Whether you’ve got a family with young children or you’re an empty nester, thunderstorms can be stressful. Here are a few tips to weather the storm when the lightning flashes and you’ve got thunder nearby:

Stay indoors

During high winds or when tornadoes are nearby, hunker down in an interior room away from windows on a lower level, if possible.

Move to secure shelter

If you’re living in a manufactured or mobile home, safely move to a public building with a basement and ride out the storm there instead of staying home.

Power down your circuit breakers

In order to help prevent lightning from surging through your home, turn off your circuit breakers before the storm strikes.

Steer clear of water and plumbing lines

Believe it or not, the Centers for Disease Control has stated that up to one-third of all lightning strike injuries happen indoors. Stay away from the dishes and don’t bathe during severe weather.

Pets should shelter with you

Bring in the dogs from their backyard kennels to keep them safe. Most doghouses and domestic sheds are not built to withstand severe weather. Sheltering with pets also helps to calm down kids and can bring a little peace to both when they hear thunder.

What to Do After a Thunderstorm

It’s best to wait at least 30 minutes after the storm has passed to venture outside into open areas. That’s because the risk of lightning is still quite high, even when a storm is on the way out. Here are a few other points to consider:

Beware of downed wires

Trees can be struck by lightning during severe weather, which can also bring down power lines. Never touch anything that’s in direct contact with a downed power line because it may conduct electricity. Call 911 immediately if you find downed powerlines.

Don’t drive through flooded areas

A car can easily be swept away in a flash flood, so even if you think the water level’s not that high, stay off the road and keep the car in the garage.

Notify authorities if you smell natural gas

Thunderstorms are dangerous because falling trees can force natural gas pipes to rupture. Get on the line with 911 upon noticing natural gas and let people know to stay clear of the area.

Thunderstorms produce atmospheric disturbances — and at times, severe weather. While you’re working on your preparations for the coming thunderstorms, be sure and check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). Consider them your trusted advisor, able to help you customize a policy that fits your home’s exact needs across the seasons — and the storms that come with them.

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