⚡️During a thunderstorm - standing under a tree is literally the WORST place to be.— NWS (@NWS) May 16, 2018
⚡️During a thunderstorm - even sitting in a parked car under a tree is dangerous due to falling limbs from lightning and wind.
⚡️Imagine how many people don't know this?#WeatherReady pic.twitter.com/S0FIR16oer
In a tweet posted on Wednesday, the agency called it “literally the WORST place to be” and shared a clip showing what happens when lightning strikes a tree.
“Most lightning deaths or injuries occur when people are on a golf course, near water or standing under trees for shelter,” the NWS wrote in a bulletin posted last year.
The agency’s safety campaigns have been credited with helping to reduce the number of lightning deaths annually. USA Today reported last year that when the NWS launched its first “when thunder roars, go indoors” campaign in 2001, the U.S. averaged 55 lightning deaths per year. That number has steadily dropped, and last year it reached an all-time low of 17.
“While we don’t like to see any lightning deaths, the continuing downward trend in yearly fatalities is encouraging,” meteorologist John Jensenius told the newspaper.
The clip, released by the NWS this week, shows a 2016 strike at Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School in Tyler, Texas:
While lightning can strike any time of year, it’s most common in summer during the late afternoon and evening. The highest incidence of lightning strikes occurs around the Gulf Coast.
The agency advises people to head indoors when they hear thunder. If that’s not possible, a closed automobile was the next-best option.
“Stay away from trees, power poles, antennae and away from lakes, ponds and water,” the NWS said. “Stay away from metal objects such as fences, railroad tracks and metal bleachers.”
AccuWeather also has some helpful tips on what to do if you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm.