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'No one thinks it's going to happen to them': Severe weather warnings roll into the Lightning Capital of Canada

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As weather watchers warn of heat and humidity across southwestern Ontario this week, forecasters also are reminding residents about severe weather, including lightning and thunderstorms.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, lightning can cause as many as 10 deaths nationwide annually, with Windsor, Ont. laying claim to the Lightning Capital of Canada.

“Windsor receives the most lightning in Canada,” said Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Trudy Kidd.

“When thunder roars, go indoors,” Kidd said. “That means if you're outside and you hear thunder don't wait for the next one, or the next one, or see if it's gonna go away. The time is right away to take action and get to a safe place.”

Kidd explained lightning and thunderstorms are common in the weeklong forecast in the Windsor-Essex region, and suggests safety plans be in place ahead of any severe weather.

If a person hears thunder or sees lightning, it means they are close enough to be struck by lightning, so the time is right to seek shelter.

“Ideally, you're seeking shelter in an enclosed, sturdy building. That's your number one safest spot. Away from windows, away from doors. You don't want to be on a laptop that's plugged in, or on a phone with a cord,” she explained. “You want to stay away from those plugged in devices. Your cell phone is fine if it's not plugged in. I would recommend not having a bath. You don't want to be in water, it's just really good at conducting electricity. So it's not the time during a thunderstorm to be taking a bath.”

If a sturdy shelter is unavailable, Kidd said the next safest place is a vehicle with a metal roof with the windows and doors closed.

“If you’re on the water, get off the water right away. You don’t want to take your time. Get to the shore as soon as you can,” she added.

According to Environment Canada, upwards of 164 people are injured by lightning strikes each year.

Kidd suggests people stay inside for 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.

“I hope that people don't get comfortable with the thunderstorms and ‘Oh, we get them all the time and you know, I've never been struck before so I'll be fine.’ I hope that that doesn't happen in southern Ontario,” Kidd told CTV News Windsor.

She added, “No one thinks it's going to happen to them, but there's numerous injuries in Canada per year as well as deaths, and you just don't want to be that person.”

Peter Berry, Windsor’s harbour master, also urged severe weather vigilance while navigating local waterways this summer, suggesting sudden fast-moving storms can make it difficult for swimmers, boaters and others on the water to reach shore safely.

“If you're going to be going out for the day on the water, take the time to look at the weather forecast. Look at the radar, listening to your VHF marine radio weather forecasts about incoming gales and squalls,” Berry said.

“As we know last year, we saw a prevalence of tornadoes come through this area where it was beautiful in the morning, nice and warm that afternoon the wind came up and we could have had some very bad outcomes,” he continued. “It's part of boating safety, before you leave for the day, get your weather forecast. Get your float plan in place, notifying people that you're going out and the times you're expected back so that we're not out there doing a search and rescue.” 

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