Avoiding Lightning While Outdoors

If you are outdoors hiking during a lightning storm there are some important things to consider about hike safety.

You will naturally want to find shelter in a building (but not a picnic shelter) or car if possible to avoid a lightning strike while hiking. However, sometimes while hiking those options are not available so these five tips can help you avoid the lightning strikes:

When lightning storm is in the area for hike safety move away from tall lone trees, hilltops and other high objects. If your hiking trail takes you in a forest look for some small trees or thick bushes in a low lying area to crouch under. Either way you do not want to be the highest point.

Never lie flat on the ground, but crouch down in a low lying area, such as a valley. To reduce your exposure it is best to crouch on the balls of your feet and have them placed close together while your head is tucked down.

Do not stand in swamps, streams or open water during a lightning storm (you normally would not do this anyway). For hike safety be careful as any ditches along your route can fill with water quickly during a storm.

Groups of hikers should spread out and stand at least 100 feet apart. This is because lightning travels through the ground from the point of impact in random directions similar to tree roots. The smaller your group footprint, the less chance there is of anyone being hit from a nearby lightning strike.

If you have any medal such as a frame packsack or hiking poles place them on the ground at least 100 feet away.

As the storm approaches carefully watch the distant clouds for the possibility of lightning as you can see a lightning bolt prior to the sound of thunder can be heard.  And by counting the seconds between the flash and the sound of the thunder it is possible to tell how close you are to the actual lightning. If you count less than 30 seconds take shelter as best as you can. Each second represents a distance of 300 meters and at 30 seconds it means the storm is less than 10 km way. Remember that the storm does not necessarily have to be right overhead you for lightning to strike.

I hope the storm blows over quickly. Follow the above hike safety tips about avoiding lightning strikes and have an enjoyable time on the trails.


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