It's that time of year when there's an increased chance of thunderstorms. A meteorologist is warning that thunderstorms can be hazardous even if they are not considered severe. 

Natalie Hasell with Environment Canada says they define severe thunderstorms as those that produce heavy rain, large hail, strong straight-line winds, and maybe a tornado. But, even if it is not severe, a thunderstorm is still defined by lightning, which itself can be threatening.

"Lightning causes a lot of property damage, damage to infrastructure, wildland fires at times," she says. "Also, being hit by lightning, you can be seriously injured or end up in some of the mortality statistics."

Hasell has a few precautions for the public. First of all, she says having access to shelter is key during a thunderstorm. But even if you happen to find shelter, Hasell says it is important not to stand near a window.

"If lightning hits a tree, it will probably shatter the tree and you'll get debris flying into things like your windows," she explains. "So, you don't want to stand by them and get injured by windows being broken."

If you are outside during a thunderstorm, Hasell says you should avoid anything that can conduct electricity. This could include such things as water, metal, long fences, or hydro poles. 

Hasell says you should also not stand underneath a tree. She notes a tall tree is more likely to be struck by lightning. And if that tree is struck by lightning you are at risk of side splash.

"Where lightning hits a tree and instead of going all the way down the tree, somewhere at some point it might go out sideways," she explains. "So, if you are sitting under a tree or standing under a tree, you could be in the direct path of lightning going through the side splash."

According to Hasell, it is actually quite rare to be hit directly by lightning. To avoid this, she suggests staying away from large, empty spaces such as a soccer pitch. 

"You don't want to be in that field," Hasell explains. "You don't want to be the tallest thing around."

Rather, she says if you cannot find shelter, then at least find a low area and crouch down. 

She notes it is also important not to be wearing earbuds. Hasell says wireless earbuds are certainly a better option, however, by wearing them you are still not paying attention to your surroundings. 

"Better to increase your awareness and put that stuff away," she says. "So that you can deal with whatever is coming at you a little bit better than if your hearing is taken up by something being played at you in your ears."

And finally, Hasell says in some cases your vehicle might be all that you need to stay safe during a thunderstorm. She explains that if your vehicle has a metal frame, it will act as a Faraday cage as the lightning charge will circulate the exterior of the vehicle. However, Hasell says this only works as long as you are not fiddling with the radio dial or sticking your arm out the window. 

"You want to be inside the vehicle as low down as possible," she says. "And pull off, don't keep driving. That way you reduce your risk."