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Severe Weather


Lightning is an enormous electrostatic discharge between the cloud and the ground, other clouds, or within a cloud. According to the National Weather Service, an average of 48 people are killed each year by lightning in the United States. Colorado ranks 8th in the nation for number of injuries and deaths caused by lightning.


Other lightning facts include:

All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from any rainfall. Lightning can cause death or permanent injury; 10% of people struck by lightning die, and 70% of survivors suffer serious long-term effects, including memory loss, sleep disorders, numbness, fatigue, muscle spasms and stiffness in joints. Lightning DOES strike in the same place twice – or more. In fact, it often has “favorite” places. Lightning strike victims do not carry an electrical charge and should be helped immediately.


Outdoor Lightning Safety

  • Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. Take shelter in a building or an enclosed vehicle. Remember the 30-30 rule: The first 30 means you need to take cover if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing lightning; the second 30 reminds you to wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightning flash or thunder before resuming outdoor activity.

  • Do not touch anything metal during a thunderstorm.

  • Avoid standing water.

  • Don’t wait for rain to take shelter. Most people struck by lightning are not in the rain. If you feel your hair stand on end or your skin tingle, squat low to the ground with your hands behind or on top of your head. DO NOT LIE FLAT ON THE GROUND!


Indoor Lightning Safety

  • Avoid hard-wired phones.

  • Avoid using electrical equipment.

  • Avoid plumbing – wait until the storm passes to wash your hands, do dishes, shower or do laundry.

  • Stay away from doors and windows.

  • Do not lie on concrete floors.



Severe Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms develop when cold upper air sinks and warm moist air rises. As the warm air rises, storm clouds develop. These clouds make the thunderstorm, which brings strong winds, lightning, hail and rain. Thunderheads may be miles across at the base and reach heights of 40,000 feet or more. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. They most often occur during the afternoon and evening hours. No matter their size, all thunderstorms can be dangerous. In addition, tornadoes and flash floods can be caused by these storms.



High Winds

Violent downslope winds referred to as ‘Chinooks’ are common in Gilpin County. These powerful winds can occur anytime, but are most common from December through May. Historically, the most severe Chinooks have occurred during the month of January, when the jet stream is the strongest and is usually directly over the area. Follow the same precautions for high winds that you would for tornado:


At home or at work:

Go to the basement. If there is no basement, go to an interior hallway or small interior room, on the lowest floor, such as a bathroom or a closet, Avoid windows. Do not remain in a trailer or mobile home when high winds and strong gusts are present. Take cover in a sturdier building or in a ditch. If you are in a high-rise building, go to the most interior rooms or hallways.


At school:

Follow instructions of authorities/teachers. Stay out of structures with wide free-span roofs like auditoriums and gyms.


In a car or outside:

Seek cover in a nearby building, or lie flat in a ditch or ravine. Avoid seeking shelter under an overpass or bridge.

These areas are extremely dangerous when strong gusty winds are present.



Winter Storms & Extreme Cold

Winter storms vary in size and strength and can be accompanied by strong winds that create blizzard conditions and dangerous wind chill. There are three categories of severe winter storms.

  1. A blizzard is the most dangerous of all winter storms. It combines low temperatures, heavy snowfall, and winds of at least 35 miles per hour, reducing visibility to only a few yards.

  2. A heavy snowstorm is one that drops 4 or more inches of snow in a 12-hour period.

  3. An ice storm occurs when moisture falls and freezes immediately upon impact.


Before the Storm

  • Be familiar with winter storm watch and warning messages.

  • Service snow removal equipment and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways and sand or kitty litter to generate temporary traction.

  • To keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspaper, then cover with plastic to keep out moisture.

  • Insulate walls and attic.

  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.

  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.

  • Locate water valves and know how to shut them off, if necessary


During the Storm



  • Stay inside.

  • If you are using alternative heat, follow fire safety guidelines and ensure proper ventilation.

  • Close off any unused rooms.

  • Put towels at the base of doors.

  • Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of fluids to provide energy and stay hydrated.



  • Find shelter. If none is available, build a lean-to, windbreak or snow cave for protection from the wind.

  • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention. Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.

  • Eating snow for hydration will cause your body temperature to drop; melt it first.

  • If you are stuck in your car, run the motor for 10 minutes each hour for heat. Make sure that your tailpipe is clear of snow. Make yourself visible to rescuers by turning on the dome light at night when running the engine, or by tying a brightly colored cloth to your antenna.

  • Exercise periodically by energetically moving legs, arms fingers and toes to increase circulation and body temperature.



After the Storm


  • Assist neighbors who may need assistance, such as the elderly, people with infants, or those with special needs.

  • Remove ice and snow from tree limbs, roof and other structures after the storm passes.

  • When shoveling snow, avoid overexertion. Colder temperatures add strain to the heart, and can make strenuous activity feel less tiring.

  • Be attentive to signs of dehydration.

  • When outdoors, wear layers of warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Layers can be removed to prevent chill.

  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air and avoid speaking unnecessarily.

  • Watch for signs of frostbite, such as loss of feeling and a pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose and earlobes. If these signs are present, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, slow or slurred speech, exhaustion and stumbling. If these are detected, get to a warm location, remove wet clothing and drink warm, non-alcoholic beverages. Get medical attention as soon as possible.



Winter Driving


Winterize your car, including a battery check, antifreeze, oil level and tires. Check thermostat, ignition system, lights, hazard lights, exhaust system, heater, defroster and brakes. Snow tires are recommended, and chains may be required in certain conditions, especially in the mountains. Always keep your gas tank at least half full.


Assemble a winter car kit:

  • Shovel

  • Windshield scraper

  • Battery-powered radio

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • Water

  • Snack Food

  • Hat and mittens or gloves

  • Tow chain or rope

  • Tire Chains

  • Bag of road salt and/or sand

  • Brightly colored distress flag

  • Booster cables

  • Road maps

  • Emergency reflectors


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