How to stay safe during thunderstorms in Southern California

A lightning bolt sears the sky near a lifeguard tower at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
A lightning bolt sears the sky near a lifeguard tower at Bolsa Chica State Beach in this 2021 photo.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Scattered thunder and lightning hit Southern California on Wednesday morning.

Officials are urging caution:

  • Give yourself more time when driving because of potential downpours.
  • Dry lightning strikes in hillside and mountain areas could cause brush fires. Dry lightning caused major fires in Northern California in 2020.
  • Damaging winds could cause problems in inland mountain and desert areas.
  • Some beaches were temporary closed.

Here are some tips for dealing with thunder and lightning from the National Weather Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with the windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby, the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
  • Never lie flat on the ground.
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree.
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.).

Indoor tips

  • Avoid contact with water during a thunderstorm. Do NOT bathe, shower, wash dishes or have any other contact with water during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Avoid using electronic equipment of all types. Do NOT use anything connected to an electrical outlet, such as computers, laptops, game systems, washers, dryers or stoves. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems.
  • Avoid using corded phones. Corded phones are NOT safe to use during a thunderstorm. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
  • Do NOT lie on concrete floors or lean on concrete walls during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.