Summer storms in Germany How to protect yourself from heavy thunderstorms and storms

A violent thunderstorm front with heavy rain and sometimes even a tornado danger is coming to Germany. How best to behave during thunderstorms and storms.

In thunderstorms and storms you should behave carefully

Countless thunderstorms hit us every year – so you put them off and go for a leisurely walk or continue the bike tour. But Andreas Friedrich from the German Weather Service (DWD) emphasizes: “Thunderstorms are always life-threatening, because every flash can be deadly.”

We give you five tips that you should definitely keep in mind during storms.

1. Stay clear of trees during thunderstorms

If you can no longer withdraw into a building, you need a hollow, i.e. a deepening in the terrain.

“One should move away from trees, because they are also dangerous when lightning strikes,” explains Friedrich. “If you found a trough, I would put the bike a few meters away and also put down a backpack with some metal objects and position it away,” added the DWD spokesman.

The same applies to a motorcycle. Because metal can conduct the energy of lightning. “Then squat down in this hollow if possible, with your feet close together,” says Friedrich. “That way you at least have the chance of not being so exposed and in danger of being struck by lightning.”

2. Avoid forests and heavily overgrown areas

“There’s this golden rule where you count to three,” explains Friedrich. When you see lightning, you start counting. If you can only get to three before it thunders, then the thunderstorm is less than a kilometer away “Then it will definitely be dangerous.”

Would driving into a forest be an option? “No, the forest is always bad,” emphasizes Friedrich. “Because if lightning strikes a tree – and it usually does, because it always chooses a high point in the terrain – and you are in the immediate vicinity of the tree, then you can get debris. Such a tree can literally explode, the bark fly off. Then you are more at risk there than in the open air.”

If you are caught in a thunderstorm in the forest with no way out, the expert recommends looking for a treeless depression – i.e. going as deep into the terrain as possible.

3. Take shelter in the car

“In a normal car you are in a so-called Faraday cage” – and safe, says Friedrich. However, you should not stick your arms out of the window, but rather close it.

Am I always safe in the house or do I have to adapt my behavior, such as not making phone calls? “This rule existed in the days of corded telephones,” explains Friedrich. Because if lightning strikes nearby, the electrical system can be damaged by overvoltages – and you can also damage wired devices directly.

“That’s why I wouldn’t use a corded phone to make calls during thunderstorms. What’s different with a smartphone.” In this context, the expert advises pulling the plugs on electrical appliances in the house.

4. How do I behave in a tornado?

For a long time, tornadoes were something you could see in Europe rather known from the US news or Hollywood films. But hurricanes with devastating consequences can also occur in Germany and the surrounding area. The German Weather Service (DWD) speaks of 20 to 60 tornadoes per year in Germany – so you should know how to react in an emergency.

  • Detect Tornadoes: Tornadoes are easily recognized by the long trunk of the cloud that stretches from sky to ground. If you see this phenomenon, you should act quickly because the direction in which the storm is moving is often difficult to predict.
Tornado over a field
© mdesigner125 / gettyimages

The German Weather Service (DWD) gives the following tips:

  • If you have a basement, that’s the best possible hiding place during a tornado. But interior rooms such as a bathroom also protect against flying debris. In any case, stay away from windows!
  • If you’re outdoors, find a hollow in the terrain and lie in it as flat as possible, face down. Stay away from buildings where debris could hit you. Falling trees are also a major hazard.
  • In addition, roller shutters, the garage door and all doors of the house or apartment should be closed to avoid damage to property.

You can use your car or bike to escape in the opposite direction, depending on the strength and speed of movement of the tornado.

Observe the cloud tube briefly beforehand in order to be able to better assess its direction. If escape is no longer possible, do not stay in or near the car.

5. How to behave properly during floods

Flooding and flooding are also common during thunderstorms with heavy rainfall. The danger of large amounts of water is often underestimated. You should note the following:

  • Do not stay in the bank areas, as the terrain can break off due to undermining.
  • Turn off electrical appliances and circuit breakers in any room that could be flooded with water to avoid electric shock.
  • Never drive your car on (partially) flooded roads, as obstacles in the water or holes in the ground are not visible – the engine can also be severely damaged.
  • Do not enter underground car parks as they can become a death trap during severe flooding.
  • When you’re outside, flee to as high a spot as possible and stay away from fast-moving water.

Even if videos and photos of floods are important for documentation, you should not put yourself at risk in order to get the most spectacular shots possible.

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