Wednesday, April 14, 1999
Georgia Emergency Management Agency director Gary W. McConnell noted that it is not the thunderstorms themselves that are dangerous, but the hazards that accompany them, including flash floods, lightning, hail and straight-line winds. The thunderstorms can also spawn tornadoes.
Flash flooding, for example, can occur rapidly in the wake of a severe thunderstorm. It is the nation's number one weather-related killer, and most of the victims are snared when they attempt to walk or drive through rushing water. Hail, meanwhile, can fall at up to 100 miles per hour, causing an estimated $1 billion a year in damage to property and agricultural crops.
Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms. It can strike anywhere, but people who are outdoors are most vulnerable. People who are caught outside should seek shelter in a substantial building, a vehicle with a hard top, or under short trees or bushes. Sheds with dirt floors, tall isolated trees and power poles or metal pipes should be avoided.
Straight-line winds can often do as much damage as tornadoes. In fact, straight-line winds in excess of 100 mph, which cause wind damage, can be mistaken for tornadoes.
"If severe weather appears to be imminent, or if a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is issued by the National Weather Service, pay attention to it and take the appropriate precautions," said McConnell. "The lightning and flash flooding can be particularly dangerous."
Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas for a limited duration. The average storm is approximately 15 miles in diameter, lasting an average of 30 minutes. In spite of this they can be extremely dangerous.
Although thunderstorms are most likely to occur in the spring and summer months, during the afternoon and evening hours, they can hit year 'round and at any time of day.