rain storm over Ralegih


Emergency Preparedness - Ready Raleigh Guide

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Thunderstorm Watch vs. Warning What to Do During a Storm Lightning Before a Thunderstorm During a Thunderstorm Driving during a Thunderstorm After a Thunderstorm Hail

Thunderstorm Watch vs. Warning

Thunderstorms are violent, short-lived weather events associated with lightning, thunder, dense clouds, heavy rain or hail, and strong, gusty winds. Thunderstorms can occur year-round and at any hour of the day. 

Thunderstorm Watch vs. Warning

When thunderstorms are expected, the Weather Service may issue watches and warnings.

A Thunderstorm Watch means conditions are favorable for thunderstorms. Watches are typically issued for large geographic areas and are in effect for several hours.

A Thunderstorm Warning means thunderstorms are imminent or occurring and action should be immediate.

What to Do During a Storm

During a Severe Thunderstorm Watch

  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio, or local radio or television stations for updated information.
  • Avoid lightning rods such as golf clubs, fishing poles, tractors, bicycles, etc.
  • Be prepared to seek shelter if a severe thunderstorm is approaching. A sturdy building is the safest place to be during a severe thunderstorm. 

During a Thunderstorm Warning find shelter right away!

  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings.
  • Unplug appliances.
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower or running water for any other purpose or using a landline phone.
  • Turn off the air conditioner. 

Risks from thunderstorms:

  • Wind damage: downed trees and power lines
  • Flash flooding
  • Tornadoes and powerful winds (over 50 mph)
  • Damage from hail 


What to do if Someone is Struck by Lightning

Lightning is a sudden electrical discharge released from the atmosphere that follows a course from cloud to ground, cloud to cloud, or cloud to surrounding air, with light illuminating its path. Lightning’s unpredictable nature causes it to be one of the most feared weather elements.

  • Call for help. Get someone to dial 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number. Medical attention is needed as quickly as possible.
  • Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.
  • Check for burns. The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned, both where they were struck and where the electricity left their body. Being struck by lightning can also cause nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing or eyesight. People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge that can shock other people so they can be handled safely.

Before a Thunderstorm

  • Know your area’s risk for thunderstorms. In most places they can occur year-round and at any hour.
  • Prepare early: Keep trees near your house trimmed, use surge protectors for appliances and electronic devices.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of thunderstorms. Be ready to change plans, if necessary, to be near shelter.
  • Keep an eye on the sky. Pay attention to weather clues around you that may warn of imminent danger. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning or increasing wind, which may be signs of an approaching thunderstorm.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. Look for places you might go should severe weather threaten.
  • Listen for the sound of thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
  • Secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture that could blow away or cause damage or injury. Take light objects inside.
  • Shutter windows securely and brace outside doors. This will help protect your house from damaging winds or flying debris.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get to land, get off the beach and find shelter immediately. Stay away from rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. 

During a Thunderstorm

  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Lightning could follow the wire. Television sets are particularly dangerous.
  • Avoid bathtubs, water faucets and sinks because metal pipes can transmit electricity.
  • Take shelter in substantial, permanent, enclosed structures, such as reinforced buildings. Sturdy buildings are the safest place to be.
  • If there are no reinforced buildings in sight, take shelter in a car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles. Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • As a last resort and if no structure is available, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding. Have as little contact with the ground as possible. Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible. Do not lie flat on the ground this will make you a larger target.
  • Avoid tall structures such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines and power lines. Lightning strikes the tallest objects in an area.
  • Stay away from natural lightning rods, such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles and camping equipment. Lightning is attracted to metal and poles or rods.

Driving during a Thunderstorm

What to do while driving during a thunderstorm and heavy rain:

  • Pull safely onto the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure you are away from any trees or other tall objects that could fall on the vehicle. Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside. Vehicles will provide better protection from lightning than being out in the open. Keep car windows closed.
  • Avoid contact with metal or conducting surfaces outside or inside the vehicle.
  • Turn around, don’t drown: Avoid flooded roadways. Heed Flood Warning signs posted in flood-prone areas.

After a Thunderstorm

  • Listen to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding.
  • Watch for fallen power lines and trees. Do not go near a fallen power line! Report them to Duke Energy Progress at 800-452-2777.
  • Check on friends and neighbors.
  • Call Raleigh’s Solid Waste Services Department for information on storm debris removal. 


Hail is precipitation that is formed when updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops upward into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere causing them to freeze. The raindrops form into small frozen droplets and then continue to grow as they come into contact with super-cooled water which will freeze on contact with the frozen rain droplet. This frozen rain droplet can continue to grow and form hail.