“When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”

 

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We often can be reminded of child-like fears when the spring and summer afternoon storms roll in and you see that flash of light, accompanied by the inevitable crack of thunder. Fear is an understandable reaction. While aesthetically pleasing, lightning can be a very powerful and dangerous natural occurrence. The only true way to be safe during a lightning storm is to remain indoors, but here are some steps to take when you find yourself in more precarious situations while enjoying Mother Nature before the seasons change.

Be Prepared

Always check the weather conditions before you leave for your activity. Weather is very unpredictable, so if a storm is expected, perhaps choose a different day for your golf tee time or to take the boat out on the lake.

Hiking

Anytime thunder is heard, you are already within the striking range of a storm and action should be taken.

If you’re below tree line, avoid open shelters such as picnic pavilions. These actually aren’t very safe in a lightning storm. If an enclosed building with plumbing or wiring is available, this would be best. The plumbing and wiring act as grounders, deterring the lightning away from your body. Additionally, caves are not a good idea, as they can easily channel electricity. If there are no stable, enclosed buildings take shelter in a group of short trees amid taller ones. The thicker the group of trees, the better. Standing near lone trees is not safe. Make sure to ditch anything metal in your possession a fair distance away from you. These items could include backpacks with internal or external metal frames, crampons and trekking poles. It may be hard, but try to separate as much as possible from the group you’re with. Everyone should try to be at least 20ft away from each other.

Above tree line is trickier. If you can easily and quickly get below tree line, that should be your first initiative. If that’s not an option, steer clear of objects that are much taller than the terrain around you. Head towards the lowest spot possible such as a dry ravine or ditch. If feasible, all members of the party should spread out. The last option is to assume the lightning pose. Place your feet together and crouch as low as you can without any other part of your body touching the ground. Keep your head down and wrap your arms around your knees. If you have any kind of insulation with you, such as a sleeping pad or a bag of clothes (that doesn’t contain metal framing), you can sit on this.

The Lightning Pose

The Lightning Pose

Camping

It’s best to avoid setting up your tent under an isolated tree or on top of a barren hill. While a lone tree can provide protection from rain, it basically has a target on it for lightning. Again, if thunder is heard you are already in striking range of lightning. Move to an enclosed building with plumbing or wiring as soon as possible. If this escape route isn’t available, an all metal car will do, ensuring the windows are up. The metal of the car plays an important role in lightening safety. Therefore, a convertible with a soft top is not safe nor is an RV made out of fiberglass. Lightning can travel right through the fabric and fiberglass. Perhaps you’re backpacking and neither of these options are feasible, move into the lightning position described earlier with your sleeping pad under you.

On the Water

As soon as you hear thunder, you should start the process to move back towards land. Water is a strong conductor for lightning so it should be avoided in a storm. Perhaps it’s not possible to quickly and safely get to land, you should then take these steps. If the boat has a cabin, stay in the center of the cabin. If there is no cabin, the only option is to crouch in the middle of the boat.

Remember, when you hear thunder you’re already in danger and you should immediately start taking action to help better your situation. And the only way to really be safe from a lightning strike is to remain in an enclosed building with plumbing or wiring. Just because the storm is over doesn’t mean it is OK to get back to your outdoor activities. It’s best to wait 30 minutes after the storm to avoid any post storm strikes, which is a possibility.

And Don’t Forget the Advice from NOAA, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”

Do you have any additional tips or maybe an intense lightning story? Let us know in the comments below!

Bailey Valian

Bailey was born and raised in a small Colorado mountain town called Crested Butte. This is where her love for the outdoors started. She has now found herself in Denver, CO where the mountains aren't too far away. When she's not hiking, camping or skiing in the mountains she enjoys traveling, volunteering, going to sporting events (Go Broncos and Avs!) and making friends with any animal she meets.

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9 Responses to ““When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors””

  1. Jody August 4, 2016 at 9:14 am #

    Great article and good information. I actually learned some important facts to keep in mind the next time I’m outside and hear that lighting strike.

    • Bailey Valian
      Bailey Valian August 4, 2016 at 10:02 am #

      I’m glad it helped! It’s important to stay informed and safe while we’re enjoying the outdoors.

  2. Cindy August 4, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    Some new information here. Thank you! I didn’t know about the caves channeling electricity. And that plumbing and electricity are needed in the building. Very helpful!

    • Bailey Valian
      Bailey Valian August 4, 2016 at 10:18 am #

      I learned some new things myself in writing this!

  3. Rat August 4, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    Good article. I learned a lot from reading it. Just the other night lightning struck so close to my house it set off my smoke detectors and knocked out my satellite. It struck the chimney on the building across the street from me.

    • Bailey Valian
      Bailey Valian August 4, 2016 at 10:42 am #

      Wow! I hope no one was hurt. I’ve never heard of a strike setting off the smoke detectors. That’s pretty darn close!

  4. Angie Hornbrook August 5, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    Good to know Bailey.

  5. Catherine August 7, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    I love a thunderstorm ! Your article is a great reminder about safety with a lot of good information. Thanks, Never heard of the Lightning pose before . Catherine

    • Bailey Valian
      Bailey Valian August 8, 2016 at 9:05 am #

      Glad it provided some new information for you! I love a thunderstorm when I’m safe indoors, I’ve gotta admit that I still get pretty spooked by them when I have no shelter.

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