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Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms can bring heavy rains, strong winds, hail, lightning and tornadoes. In the course of a few hours, a thunderstorm can cause flash flooding, downed trees/power lines, power outages, lightning-related damage to buildings and electrical equipment, tornado damage to buildings and infrastructure, hail damage to vehicles and buildings, and massive amount of debris on roads. People are at risk of injury or death during thunderstorms as well.

​It is important to know the difference between a thunderstorm WATCH and a thunderstorm WARNING. A severe thunderstorm WATCH means a severe thunderstorm (damaging winds of 58 miles per hour or more, or hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter or greater) is likely to develop. A severe thunderstorm WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

​For more information on thunderstorm hazards, please visit:
nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/ww.shtml

 

Before

Use the following tips to prepare your home, family, and pets before a thunderstorm:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Build or re-stock your Emergency Kit.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family members may not all be in one place when disaster strikes.  It is important to know how you will contact one another, how and where you will meet and what you will do in case of an emergency. Plan how to communicate if you lose power.
  • Secure outdoor objects, such as lawn furniture and garbage cans that could blow away or cause damage or injury.
  • Take light objects inside.
  • Bring pets inside.
  • Remove any dead, broken, or rotting tree branches that could fall during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Shutter windows. Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors.
  • Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment, including telephones and televisions.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Evacuate if told to do so by District officials.
  • If you cannot return home and need shelter, follow the official information given to you by the District Government to find the nearest available shelter in your area.
  • Please refer to the District Department of Energy & Environment guidance for flooding/flood zone information.

 

During

Use the following tips to protect your home, family and pets during a thunderstorm:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • If indoors, avoid bathtubs, water faucets and sinks because metal pipes can transmit electricity.
  • If outside, go inside a building or car. Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas. Avoid tall structures such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines or power lines.
  • If driving, pull safely onto the shoulder of the road and stay away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle. If caught in your car during the storm, stay in the car, and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside. Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road - you could be trapped or stranded.
  • Stay away from bodies of water and flood-prone areas.
  • Do not attempt to move downed power lines, trees, or other fallen objects.
  • If you cannot return home and need shelter, follow the official information given to you by the District Government to find the nearest available shelter in your area.
  • Please refer to the District Department of Energy & Environment guidance for flooding/flood zone information.

 

After

Use the following tips to help your home, family and pets recover safely after a thunderstorm:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • If you cannot return home and need shelter, follow the official information given to you by the District Government to find the nearest available shelter in your area.
  • Stay alert for extra rainfall and flooding after the storm has ended.
  • Communicate with family members and friends.
    • If you have a cell phone, call, text, email or use social media.
    • If you have access to a computer, use an online registry such as the Red Cross website, “Safe and Well”. 
    • If you do not have a cell phone, use social media apps on personal gaming or tablet devices.
    • If you do not have access to technology, go to your pre-designated meeting place for you to reconnect with family members or consider relaying information through friends, family or even your workplace.
  • Check on your neighbors. Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children, the elderly or people with disabilities or access and functional needs.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just six inches of moving water can knock you down and fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • Avoid standing flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.
  • Watch your pets closely. Keep them under your direct control.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire.
  • Assess your property for damages and take pictures.
  • Contact your insurance agent to file a claim.
  • If you hire a contractor for repairs, make sure they are licensed.
  • Please refer to the District Department of Energy & Environment guidance for flooding/flood zone information.

Additional Resources

ready.gov/thunderstorms-lightning
redcross.org/prepare/disaster/thunderstorm