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What to do when you're caught in a severe thunderstorm

Winter seems to be finally behind us in Minnesota. As the weather slowly warms up, it won’t be too long before we get our first round of thunderstorms of the year.

We all know what a thunderstorm looks and sounds like, what with the booming thunder and streaks of lightning slashing across the sky. But what makes a thunderstorm “severe”? As we discussed in a post from last May, a severe thunderstorm features at least one of the following:

  • Tornado
  • Hail one inch in size or larger
  • Gusts of wind above 50 knots

When a severe thunderstorm hits your neighborhood, you need to take action to protect yourself and your family. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research recommends the following safety tips:

  • Keep an eye and ear on the weather for signs of an approaching storm.
  • Count the seconds between a flash of lightning and the next peal of thunder. If fewer than 30 seconds pass, the storm is about five miles away. Time to seek shelter, if you aren’t indoors already.
  • Look for an enclosed building, or at least your car. If no shelter is available, find the lowest point nearby and avoid trees, water and contact with metal.
  • Though it may be tempting, don’t huddle with a group of other people. If you are stuck outside with others during a severe thunderstorm, have everyone spread out several yards apart.

Once the storm passes and everyone is safe, the next step is to inspect your home for damage from hail, wind or lightning. Depending on the nature and extent of the damage, you may need to file a claim with your homeowners insurance provider. And if your insurer denies your claim, your next step could be to contact an attorney.

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