Whether you are on the ball field, the golf course, or in a pool, a darkened sky and rumbling thunder are clear signals to suspend play and get to shelter immediately. It could save your life!

Virginia averages 35 to 45 thunderstorm days a year. Thunderstorms can occur any day of the year and at any time of the day, but are most common in the late afternoon and evenings during the summer months. About five percent of thunderstorms become severe and are capable of producing tornadoes, large hail, damaging winds, and heavy rains causing flash flooding. Severe thunderstorms can develop in less than 30 minutes, allowing little time for warning. To alert the public about possible severe thunderstorms, the National Weather Service issues watches and warnings.

Be Familiar with the Terminology

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

A severe thunderstorm watch means that the conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms. If a watch is broadcast, stay tuned for further information and possible warnings and be prepared to take cover.

  • Hail greater than three-quarters of an inch
  • Winds greater than 58 miles per hour

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

A severe thunderstorm warning means conditions are occurring or imminent. Warnings are issued for individual counties and include the severe thunderstorm's location, direction, and speed. If you are in the path of the severe thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately.

Lightning Safety Tips

On average, lightning causes as many deaths annually as tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Except for flash floods, lightning kills more people in the United States than any other meteorological phenomenon.

  • Do not become a victim of your hesitation.
  • If you see threatening clouds approach, see lightning or hear thunder, seek safe shelter immediately
  • While working or playing outdoors everyone should keep their eyes and ears to the sky

National Weather Service officials note that if you can hear the sound of thunder, you are within range of a lightning strike. Lightning can travel horizontally up to 10 miles in any direction, which means that a thunderstorm need not be directly overhead, nor does it need to be raining to produce lightning in an area.