Strong thunderstorms expected in Berkshire County Thursday evening

Strong thunderstorms expected in Berkshire County Thursday evening

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for strong thunderstorms expected to hit Berkshire County on Thursday evening. Residents should brace for wind gusts reaching up to 40 mph. At 7:09 p.m., Doppler radar detected a significant thunderstorm over Housatonic, near Great Barrington, moving eastward at 20 mph. The weather service cautions that gusty winds could potentially knock down tree limbs and scatter unsecured objects.

The areas likely to be affected include Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Becket, Otis, Housatonic, Stockbridge, Monterey, Peru, Washington, Tyringham, Hartsville, Mahkeenac Heights, North Otis, Newsboy Statue, Glendale, Tanglewood, Williamsville, Lenox Dale, and Mahkeenac Terrace. Localized rainfall rates could approach half an inch to an inch per hour, which may lead to water ponding on roadways and flooding in low-lying areas with poor drainage.

The weather service advises, “If you are outdoors, consider seeking shelter inside a building. Torrential rainfall is also occurring with this storm and may lead to localized poor drainage and street flooding. Do not drive your vehicle through flooded roadways.”

Lightning is a significant threat during thunderstorms. Each year, lightning strikes the United States approximately 25 million times, mostly during the summer months. Tragically, lightning claims around 20 lives annually. The risk of lightning intensifies as thunderstorms approach, peaking when the storm is directly overhead and diminishing as it moves away.

To stay safe during a thunderstorm, consider these recommendations:

1. **Lightning Safety Plan**: When outdoors, have a clear plan for seeking shelter if lightning is imminent. Monitor the sky for threatening signs and listen for thunder. If you hear thunder, it means lightning is nearby. Seek shelter promptly in a safe location, preferably indoors.

2. **Indoors Safety Measures**: Once indoors, avoid using corded phones, electrical devices, and plumbing fixtures. Stay away from windows and doors to reduce the risk of electrical surges, as lightning can follow conductive pathways.

3. **Wait for the All-Clear**: After the last lightning strike or thunderclap, wait at least 30 minutes before resuming outdoor activities. Lightning can strike even when a storm seems to have passed, so exercise caution.

If you find yourself outdoors with no access to indoor shelter during a thunderstorm, take these steps to maximize your safety:

– Avoid open fields, hilltops, or ridge crests, which expose you to greater lightning risk.
– Steer clear of tall, isolated trees and other prominent objects. In forested areas, stay close to lower stands of trees.
– If you’re in a group, ensure that individuals are spaced out to prevent lightning current from transferring between people.
– Camping in an open setting during a thunderstorm is strongly discouraged. If you have no alternative, set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low-lying areas. It’s crucial to note that a tent provides no protection against lightning.
– Do not approach water bodies, wet objects, or metal items. While water and metal don’t attract lightning, they conduct electricity effectively and can pose significant risks.

In summary, when facing the threat of lightning, vigilance and preparedness are your best allies. By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the chances of lightning-related accidents and prioritize your safety.

Rain can turn roads into hazards. Stay informed and follow these tips from the weather service to ensure safety during heavy rainfall:

– **Beware of Rapid Water Flow**: Avoid parking or walking near culverts or drainage ditches, as swiftly moving water during heavy rain can potentially carry you away.
– **Maintain Safe Driving Distances**: Adhere to the two-second rule for maintaining a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front of you. In heavy rain, allow an additional two seconds of distance to compensate for reduced traction and braking effectiveness.
– **Reduce Speed and Drive Cautiously**: If it is raining and the roads are wet, slow down. Take your foot off the accelerator and let your speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly because this may cause the car to skid.
– **Choose Your Lane Wisely**: Stay toward the middle lanes – water tends to pool in the outside lanes.
– **Visibility Matters**: Enhance your visibility in heavy rain by activating your headlights. Be particularly vigilant for vehicles in blind spots, as rain-smeared windows can obscure them.
– **Watch Out for Slippery Roads**: The first half-hour of rain is when roads are slickest due to a mix of rain, grime, and oil. Exercise heightened caution during this period.
– **Keep a Safe Distance from Large Vehicles**: Large trucks and buses can reduce your visibility with tire spray. Avoid tailgating and pass them swiftly and safely.
– **Mind Your Windshield Wipers**: Overloaded wiper blades can hinder visibility. If rain severely limits your sight, pull over and wait for conditions to improve. Seek refuge at rest areas or protected spots. If the roadside is your only option, pull off as far as possible, preferably past the end of a guard rail, and wait until the storm passes. Keep your headlights on and turn on emergency flashers to alert other drivers of your position.

In the face of heavy rain, these precautions can make a significant difference in ensuring your safety on the road. Remember to stay informed about weather conditions and heed guidance from local authorities for a secure journey.

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