‘When thunder roars, head indoors’: Lightning safety tips from the National Weather Service

After four people were hit, and three killed, by lightning in D.C.’s Lafayette Square, the National Weather Service is out with a warning: The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is indoors.

“If you’re outside under a tree, under grandstands, under a gazebo or pavilion … None of that does anything for protecting yourself from the lightning threat that’s out there,” said Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told WTOP. “When thunder roars, head indoors.”

Strong said to seek shelter in an enclosed building with walls and a ceiling, or in a vehicle with a hardtop and the windows rolled up.

The D.C. police said the four were hit by lightning near a cluster of trees.

Strong said there isn’t a set distance that would keep one safe from a tree that gets struck by lightning.

“You can be near a tree; you can be not near a tree,” he said. “People get struck on the roof, struck at the beach, struck on the golf course, struck in open fields, struck in a forest, with other trees around. If you’re outdoors, you’re at risk from the lightning strike if there’s a thunderstorm in the area.”

He said people should check the forecast ahead of time, especially during the summer months, when lightning is more common in the D.C. area. And if you are out during a stormy day, make sure there is a building nearby where you can quickly seek shelter.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up