Storms in France: what to do if at home, out walking or in car

We look at the key advice if you find yourself caught in bad weather

France has seen several weeks of unsettled stormy weather this summer

Tip 1: Take shelter indoors

To protect yourself in a storm find some cover quickly. If you can, head inside a building, closing all doors and windows.

If you are caught in lightning when out in the countryside do not hide under trees or electricity pylons. Also do not use an umbrella to protect yourself from the rain even if you are getting drenched.

You should try and take shelter if you are outside. Concrete buildings are best (over wooden cabins), and you can also go in your car, avoiding touching any metal in it. Do not park under a tree.

If you cannot get inside and there are lightning strikes the best action is to curl up in a ball and crouch several metres away from other people, as humans are conductors of electricity, states France’s lightning protection association Association Protection Foudre. You should also avoid running during a lightning storm.

If possible, lie or sit on insulated material, such as a plastic bag, duvet or rucksack.

Bodies of water should be avoided at all costs during a storm. If you are swimming and a storm starts you should get out of the water immediately, and you should never walk or drive near water or in submerged roads during heavy rain.

If in the mountains you should seek to take cover and not remain on the mountain face.

Finally if you spot any fires you should call the emergency services so they can be prevented from spreading.

Tip 2: Protect your appliances and equipment

You should not use your electrical appliances when inside during a thunderstorm, unplugging them from the mains instead.

You can buy a surge protector which should protect your appliances in the case of a lightning strike.

Telephone lines can conduct electricity so try to avoid using the landline unless in an emergency. Use a mobile phone if you need to make a call.

Avoid sheltering in your bathroom and using your shower, metal pipes are strong conductors of electricity.

If outside, you should drop anything metallic you might be holding such as a fishing rod, golf club, etc.

Motorcycles and prams are also electrical conductors, so you should avoid touching these during a storm.

If you have time to do so beforehand secure and tie down external objects which may otherwise be blown away.

Tip 3: Staying in your car unless it is a convertible

If you are in a car when a lightning storm strikes, you are advised to wind up the windows and stay inside.

Provided you have all doors shut the car acts like a Faraday cage, with the current passing on to the ground and away from the occupants.

One thing to note, however, is that in some more modern cars things like pedals, steering wheels and door handles can be made of metal, and thus conduct electricity. If they are metal you should not touch them.

This does not apply to convertible cars. Their roofs are often made of felt and can catch fire if struck by lightning.

Tip 4: Adapt your driving

If caught in an intense storm you should stop driving if possible and wait for the chance of lightning to subside.

If this is not possible you should instead adapt how you drive to reduce the risks of danger to yourselves or others.

You should stay much further away than usual from cyclists, motorcyclists, or pedestrians, who are more susceptible to being blown by strong gusts of wind.

You should also lower your speed – driving slower will reduce wind impact on your vehicle.

Cars can suffer internal flooding from only 30cm of water, which could permanently damage your car’s electrical system or engine.

If you are caught in your car and water enters the vehicle, you can use a headrest to break the window safely.

A video on how to do this together with other tips on how to exit a car that has flooded is available via the link below (in French).

Read also

Man dies in France after being struck by lightning as he left work