June 23 through 29 marks Lightning Safety Week, and Environment and Climate Change Canada is stressing the importance of finding shelter before a thunderstorm hits.  

Terri Lang, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the rule of thumb is “When thunder roars, go indoors.” 

“By shelter, we mean inside a building with enclosed doors and windows, or inside a vehicle.” 

Most injuries or deaths due to lightning happen before or after a storm hits. “People aren’t seeking shelter soon enough, and they’re leaving shelter too early,” explained Lang.  

“We know that thunderstorms can spit out lightning strikes well ahead of the rain, and even well behind after the rain stops.” 

The most current statistics from the Government of Canada show that there are approximately 180 injuries stemming from lightning annually, with 2 to 3 fatalities. Most injuries and deaths take place between June and August, with July being the peak month.  

Lang said you never want to be the tallest object when lightning is in the area, and you should find shelter indoors as soon as possible. “Don’t be standing under a tree, especially if it’s an isolated tree.” 

She added that metal fencing can be dangerous as well, with electricity travelling along it. “We see that a lot with cattle and horses that tend to also stand together. So if the metal fence is struck, the charge can travel along the fence, and then affect the cattle.” 

“If they’re standing together, touching each other, the charge will go through all of the cattle as well." 

One tool for assessing the current lightning risk is by checking the Canadian Lightning Danger Map. “We know if there’s one lightning strike, there’s a good chance that within 10 km there will be another lightning strike in that radius.” 

You can find more information about lightning on the Government of Canada website here.