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Severe weather season has officially started, with severe thunderstorm watches and warnings popping up in southern Manitoba Thursday.

Mid-May is usually when we start seeing severe thunderstorm warnings and watches. Terri Lang from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) says these watches and warnings aren't abnormal. 

What is abnormal, she says, is the very quick flip from the cold weather in April to the 30°C weather in May.

"Often we see sort of a nicer transition, not such a sudden switch like we're seeing this time," Lang explains.

That heat helps fuel thunderstorms. During the summer months, the other fuel is moisture coming from the growing crops. This time, it's coming from the States, which Lang says is a bit earlier than normal for that.

Those elements can combine into a severe thunderstorm and when that happens, Lang says you need to get inside.

"When thunder roars, go indoors," Lang said, explaining that if you see lightning or hear thunder, immediately get inside a building or inside a car with a roof.

Lang says it's very important to seek shelter early and come out later because of how dangerous lightning is. ECCC says people aren't taking shelter quick enough. Instead, they wait until someone tells them about the warning.

"We need to take personal responsibility for ourselves," Lang says.

That's particularly important when it comes to lightning.

"Lightning kills and injures more people in Canada than any other severe weather threat in the summer," said Lang, which puts it ahead of hail, tornados, and straight-line winds.

Lang says the straight-line winds, often called plough-winds, are still very dangerous and are capable of reaching up to 200 km/h with no tornado needed. She suggests securing everything that could blow away before heading into a solid house.

Once inside, if the wind is particularly severe, go to the basement, or find a central room with no windows. Cover yourself with a blanket to protect yourself from flying debris, and wait until the storm has completely passed.

Lang says you should never be outside during a storm, whether it is severe or not.

"There is no safe place outside during a lightning storm," Lang stressed.

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