The Dangers of Thunderstorms: 5+ Reasons Explained

why are thunderstorms dangerous

A lot of us think thunderstorms are borderline magic. But, along with that beauty comes tons of dangers.

Let’s look at why are thunderstorms dangerous so we better understand why we can’t just play in a thunderstorm.

Why are thunderstorms dangerous?

Thunderstorms are rain showers where lightning is present. It’s the rain shower part that makes it seem harmless. But the lightning part makes adventuring during a thunderstorm a terrible idea.

Thunderstorms’ overall and biggest danger is that they are totally unpredictable and can bring them all sorts of nightmares.

5 Reasons Why Thunderstorms Are Dangerous

Rumbling thunder and lightning strikes are soothing to some, but there are reasons why it’s a better idea to enjoy them indoors.

Most Lightning Stats Don’t Really Matter


You’ll hear the ‘one in a million,’ but those odds should not make you feel safe or lightning-proof.

The only standout stat is that between 2006 and 2021, the average number of deaths in the US caused by lightning was 28. And in Florida (the lightning capital), more than 2000 people have been injured by lightning strikes over the last 50 years.

The chances of getting struck also depend on regional and seasonal conditions and what activity you’re doing outside.

Will my car’s rubber tires save me from lightning?

Okay, so you’re pretty safe in your car during a typical thunderstorm. But it’s not because of the tires. It’s the metal roof and sides that create a safe box.

However, convertibles, motorcycles, bikes, and open-shelled recreational vehicles have plastic or fiberglass shells and offer no protection from lighting.

Flash Floods Can Happen Fast

Slow-moving thunderstorms can dump a massive amount of rain very quickly. 

When possible, avoid getting out during any thunderstorm. Flash floods form in minutes or hours, meaning they’re nothing to play with.

  • Thunderstorms put human lives at risk.
  • Do damage to infrastructure and buildings.
  • Causes loss of livestock and crops
  • It can lead to dangerous landslides.
  • Disrupts transportation, extended power outages, and communications.

High Winds


A nice breeze or even a low wind is part of the wonder of a thunderstorm. But, winds get dangerous quickly.

During a thunderstorm, winds develop high in the atmosphere. Downdrafts of cool air caused are carried to the surface to create high winds.

High winds can reach 100mph and do as much damage as a tornado. 

Why are thunderstorms dangerous to aircraft?

Of all of the dangers of thunderstorms, it’s the high winds that pose the most threat to aircraft. 

But, every aspect of a thunderstorm can cause aviation problems, including lightning, tornadoes, and hail.



A tornado can reach speeds upward of 300mph, making them the most dangerous side effect of a thunderstorm. In the United States, the National Weather Service reports that an average of 28 people are killed yearly by tornadoes.

It does take a combination of winds to develop the conditions for a tornado. The best that NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and NWS can do is issue a general tornado watch that just means the weather is favorable for a tornado to develop.

The average lead time for a tornado warning is right at 9 minutes. Always take tornado warning alerts seriously and follow their instructions.

Who’s Most At Risk From Thunderstorms?

  • Lightning associated with thunderstorms is the most dangerous for those outdoors. Do not take cover under trees or near hilltops. If you’re in or on water, find dry land when you see the warning signs of a thunderstorm.
  • People in automobiles during a thunderstorm are at the most risk of a flash flood. The Turn Around Don’t Drown® campaign exists for the sole purpose of saving lives from flash floods.
  • Tornados most threaten people in mobile homes and vehicles.
  • If in a trailer, find the lowest spot possible, pile mattresses atop you to catch possible debris, and hunker down until it’s over.
  • Don’t try to outrun one. Pull over and duck down out of the view of car windows.

Hail Raining Down

The dreaded thrum against the windows and roof typically is the first ‘warning’ you get before a full-fledged hail storm happens.

Most hail measures an average of ¾ of an inch in diameter or smaller. But it can be far worse than a few hail dents. People and livestock are at risk as the hail falls from the atmosphere.

In 2000, a thunderstorm in Fort Worth, Texas, produced baseball-sized hail that killed one resident. You’ve no way of knowing how big the transparent ice will get.

Scattered Thunderstorms vs Isolated Thunderstorms

Weathercasters say words, and we don’t always pay attention. They are wrong so often. Why would we?

The big news about scattered and isolated thunderstorms is that the verbiage in no way describes the strength of the thunderstorm.

Are scattered thunderstorms dangerous?

Scattered thunderstorms are more annoying than they are dangerous. With that said, lightning and flash flooding could still happen, but the worst consequence of a scattered thunderstorm is simply the need to postpone outdoor activities.

To be deemed a scattered thunderstorm, it must cover a large area with a 30% to 50% chance of storms. And, it’s possible it can storm on and off for hours and bring additional threats. One scattered thunderstorm only lasts around ten minutes.

  • Weak tornadoes.
  • Torrential rain leads to flash flooding.
  • Small to medium-sized hail.

Are isolated thunderstorms dangerous?

Isolated thunderstorms affect 30% or less of the forecasted area and are hard to predict. An added danger is that one could be raging only ten miles away, and it is still sunny where you are.

An isolated thunderstorm is also known as a supercell. If you’re caught outside when an isolated thunderstorm happens, take whatever cover you can. It will most likely be a short-lived shower and only a pause in your activities.

People that live in areas prone to tornadoes should always pay extra attention during crappy weather (and consider shelter planning).

  • A high percentage of rain 
  • Hail
  • High, strong winds 
  • Big, dark cumulonimbus (thunderclouds).
  • Lightning strikes and loud rumbling thunder.
  • The possibility of tornadoes

More FAQs about Thunderstorms

What are the dangers of a thunderstorm?

The dangers of a thunderstorm include various hazards that can jeopardize safety and personal belongings nationwide and throughout the year. These hazards encompass flooding, lightning and lightning-triggered wildfires, tornadoes, as well as strong winds and hail.

What should you never do during a thunderstorm?

You should never use corded phones, computers, or other electrical equipment that can expose you to electricity during a thunderstorm. It is important to avoid plumbing, such as sinks, baths, and faucets. Additionally, staying away from windows, doors, and porches is crucial. It is advised not to lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

Why is thunder so loud?

Thunder is so loud because when lightning superheats the air in just a fraction of a second, the rapid expansion of air compresses the air in front of it, generating an acoustic soundwave known as thunder.

What 3 things cause a thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is caused by three main factors: the presence of moisture, an atmosphere that is unstable, and a mechanism to initiate atmospheric motion.

Is it safe to walk outside in a thunderstorm?

It is not safe to walk outside in a thunderstorm. No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area, so if you find yourself caught outside in a thunderstorm, it is important to keep moving towards a safe shelter.

What are the odds of getting struck by lightning?

The odds of getting struck by lightning are approximately 1 in 15,300 during one’s lifetime in the U.S. On average, around 270 individuals in the U.S. are affected by lightning strikes each year, with only about 10 percent of them resulting in fatalities. Globally, approximately 2,000 people are struck by lightning annually.

What is the most dangerous part of a thunderstorm?

The most dangerous part of a thunderstorm is tornadoes, which pose a significant threat and cause extensive damage. With wind speeds reaching nearly 300 mph, tornadoes are responsible for an average of 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries annually in the U.S. The majority of fatalities resulting from tornadoes occur in mobile homes and vehicles.

Where is the safest place in a thunderstorm?

The safest place in a thunderstorm is to find a secure, enclosed shelter such as homes, offices, shopping centers, or hard-top vehicles with the windows rolled up. Remember the saying, “When thunder roars, go indoors,” and seek shelter immediately, even if you are caught out in the open.

Can thunder shake a house?

Thunder can indeed shake a house as it is caused by the rapid compression of air surrounding the heated air, resulting in a shockwave that can impact structures such as your house, causing it to rumble or shake.

Are thunderstorms worse than tornadoes?

Thunderstorms are not worse than tornadoes. Each year, flash flooding caused by thunderstorms results in more fatalities than hurricanes, tornadoes, or lightning. Additionally, lightning causes numerous fires worldwide annually and leads to fatalities.

Where are the worst thunderstorms in the US?

The worst thunderstorms in the US can be found in Fort Myers, Florida, which holds the title of being the thunderstorm capital of the country with an average of 89 thunderstorms per year. Contrary to any climatic anomaly, Fort Myers experiences wide temperature variations that are necessary for the formation of intense thunderstorms.

What are your chances of being struck by lightning?

The chances of being struck by lightning can be stated as follows: In the U.S., the probability of being struck by lightning during one’s lifetime is 1 in 15,300. On an annual basis, around 270 individuals in the U.S. experience lightning strikes, with approximately 10 percent of them resulting in fatalities. Globally, about 2,000 people are struck by lightning each year.

What causes the most deaths in a thunderstorm?

The most common cause of death in a thunderstorm, aside from heat-related incidents, is flooding.

What happens to body when struck by lightning?

The body undergoes severe consequences when struck by lightning, including the possibility of cardiac arrest, which halts blood circulation and damages the brain and nervous system. Additionally, respiratory arrest can occur, impeding breathing and potentially causing brain hemorrhages and strokes. Furthermore, a Lichtenberg figure resembling a burn caused by lightning may also be present.

What kills more people lightning or tornadoes?

Lightning causes more fatalities than tornadoes, hurricanes, or any other storm-related cause in the U.S. Additionally, it leaves many more individuals with lifelong debilitating injuries. It is crucial to remember that being outdoors during a thunderstorm is never safe.

What are the 3 things that can make a thunderstorm severe?

The three factors that can classify a thunderstorm as severe, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), are the production of hail with a diameter of at least three-quarters of an inch, the presence of winds reaching speeds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or the occurrence of a tornado.

What are the odds of getting hit by lightning?

The odds of being struck by lightning in the U.S. during one’s lifetime are 1 in 15,300. On average, 270 individuals in the U.S. experience lightning strikes annually, with only approximately 10 percent of them resulting in fatalities. Globally, around 2,000 people are affected by lightning strikes each year.

Can you survive a direct lightning strike?

While the effects of a direct lightning strike can be serious and long-lasting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the chances of being struck are less than one in a million. Therefore, although there are more pressing dangers than being hit by lightning, the majority of lightning strike victims do survive.

Is Thundershowers dangerous?

Thundershowers can be dangerous as they are capable of producing lightning, which remains one of the leading causes of storm-related fatalities in the United States. Although there has been a decrease in lightning deaths over the past three decades, it still claims the lives of around 51 individuals and causes injuries to hundreds more on average each year.

Why can’t you take a shower during a thunderstorm?

It is not safe to take a shower during a thunderstorm due to the potential risk of being struck by lightning and the ability of water to conduct electrical currents. Lightning can travel through pipes and the water coming out of the shower head, posing a danger to individuals.

Is it safe to walk in a thunderstorm?

It is not safe to walk in a thunderstorm as there is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you find yourself caught outside during a thunderstorm, it is important to continue moving towards a safe shelter.

What not to do during a thunderstorm?

It is important to avoid certain actions during a thunderstorm. Refrain from using water, such as bathing, showering, washing dishes, or any other contact with water, as lightning can travel through a building’s plumbing. Additionally, it is advisable to avoid touching electronic equipment and to stay away from windows, doors, porches, and concrete. Lastly, it is best to refrain from using corded phones during a thunderstorm.

Is a heavy thunderstorm bad?

A heavy thunderstorm can be detrimental due to the potential for severe damage caused by large hail. Hail the size of a quarter or larger can cause significant harm to vehicles, roofs, and windows. In extreme cases, hail the size of a softball can fall at speeds exceeding 100 mph. It is advisable to avoid traveling during a severe thunderstorm. If caught in one, it is recommended to either pull over or postpone your travel plans.

Should I be worried about thunderstorms?

You should be concerned about thunderstorms. Lightning strikes, although infrequent, can still occur and pose a significant risk of severe injury or even death. It is crucial to take thunderstorms seriously and adhere to the safety guidelines mentioned above to ensure your safety. Remember, when you hear thunder, seek shelter indoors immediately.

What should you do in a thunderstorm?

You should take appropriate actions during a thunderstorm. Seek shelter indoors or in a vehicle with a roof when you hear thunder. Stay alert to alerts and warnings. Refrain from using electronic devices that are plugged into an electrical outlet. Avoid using running water. Remember to never drive through flooded roads.

Are thunderstorms good for the earth?

Thunderstorms play a crucial role in maintaining the electrical balance of the earth and atmosphere. As a steady current of electrons constantly flows upwards from the earth’s surface, thunderstorms facilitate the transfer of negative charges back to the ground. Lightning, which is typically negatively charged, helps in this process. If thunderstorms and lightning were absent, the earth-atmosphere electrical balance would cease to exist within a short span of five minutes.

By Anita Brown

Anita Brown is our go-to contributor to our emergency preparedness website. Anita brings a wealth of personal experience and professional expertise to the table, having weathered several awful natural disasters. Anita is currently working towards obtaining her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification.