Basic Lightning Safety

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fotogirl53
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Basic Lightning Safety

Post by fotogirl53 » Jul 24 2009 3:40 pm

So, I made a comment about taking shelter under a ledge to wait out a storm with extreme lightning while descending Kendrick a couple of years ago. I was about 2 miles from my truck in the thick, tall Ponderosas. The static was making my hair stand on end and I could smell the ozone from nearby strikes. Another member commented that taking shelter under a ledge or in a cave should never be done. I don't think I could squat down and wait it out. Does anyone have any thoughts on the matter?
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Lightning

Post by Jeffshadows » Jul 26 2009 6:31 pm

azbackpackr wrote:The younger boy was blown apart, literally.
He probably took the main bolt. Most people struck each year are hit by splash...
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chumley
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Re: Lightning

Post by chumley » Jul 26 2009 6:52 pm

Don't forget that golfers are frequently the single tallest object in the middle of a large, open, field (golf course). Even in a golf cart, that cart is an unprotected target. Certainly holding a metal club over your head has to increase the height of the target, but the golfers are already about as vulnerable as possible. Plus, the percentage of time that a golfer has a metal club over his head is a tiny fraction. I'm not sure its accurate to assume that the reason for the high number of strikes is due to metal golf clubs.
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SuperstitionGuy
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Re: Lightning

Post by SuperstitionGuy » Jul 26 2009 6:56 pm

OK, azbackpackr ended with a lightning story. Let me tell you mine. Many years ago I was asked to guide a small group of young scouts on a hike on the Highline trail. We started east of the Fish Hatchery (don't remember the trailhead name) hiking towards the hatchery. It was August and the weather was questionable. The scoutmaster had a lame leg so I had the little buggers all my myself. I asked them before we left if they all had their rain gear and they all responded with a yes.

About an hour into the hike we rounded a high point of the rim and saw the blackest cloud that I thought existed heading right for us. I immediately told the boys to put on their rain gear but only about half of them had theirs with them (a bunch of little liars they were). By the time the boys that did have rain gear had it on the rain began in cold cold sheets of very heavy rain. I told them we had to run about half a mile to get below the lightning danger zone but when running stay at least 20 feet apart. When they asked why the distance between each runner I explained to them that "I could afford to lose one of them to a lightning strike but I could not afford to lose the whole group!"

We ran through the forest as lightning began hitting the trees slightly uphill from us and around us. The rain was so intense that the whole area would light up very intensely with each lightning strike and we could hear the tree limbs crashing to the ground around us. Eventually we descended to an area where it was safe to stop but by now the boys were so cold that their little bodies were just shaking from the chills of the cold rain. We began again to run to stave off hypothermia and probably ran for at least three more miles.

We arrived at the next trailhead before the scoutmaster who was driving a large van to pick us up. Fortunately by now the boys weren't so wet and the sun had came out and that helped calm their nerves and dry them out as well. The scoutmaster was amazed that we traveled that section of the Highline trail so fast! Well no kidding! We were probably the fasted crew on that segment of the Highline trail in its history!

When the boys returned home, one of them asked his father if I had just been kidding about my comment, "I could afford to lose one of them to a lightning strike but I could not afford to lose the whole group!". The father knowing me said, "No, I think you were very very lucky and that he meant exactly what he said!". And of course I did!
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Last edited by SuperstitionGuy on Aug 26 2009 6:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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nonot
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Re: Lightning

Post by nonot » Jul 26 2009 7:39 pm

chumley wrote:Don't forget that golfers are frequently the single tallest object in the middle of a large, open, field (golf course). Even in a golf cart, that cart is an unprotected target. Certainly holding a metal club over your head has to increase the height of the target, but the golfers are already about as vulnerable as possible. Plus, the percentage of time that a golfer has a metal club over his head is a tiny fraction. I'm not sure its accurate to assume that the reason for the high number of strikes is due to metal golf clubs.
Golfers generally get struck for two reasons. Holding onto a golf club, or taking refuge under a tree.

Fishermen generally get struck for two reasons. Holding onto a fishing pole, and the fact they are they highest thing on the water.

Farmers generally get struck because they are the highest thing in the field.

Um as to whether holding metal makes a difference, a metal hiking pole or golf club is fundamentally not any different than a lightning pole on to of a house or building, so if you think it's a bright idea to hang onto it, by all means attempt to beat the odds :roll:
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joebartels
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Re: Lightning

Post by joebartels » Jul 26 2009 7:42 pm

I think partially the difference is it's not grounded. Golf clubs, fishing poles and trekking poles all have handles and you generally wear shoes so it's a broken circuit. When it's raining and everything is wet, that's another thing...
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nonot
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Re: Lightning

Post by nonot » Jul 26 2009 7:58 pm

The worst part about holding onto metal is that it is likely in the path the lightning will take to conduct to ground if it hits you. Metal hiking poles in your hand and on the ground is part of the circuit.

The metal connects to your hand, which connects to your arm, which connects to your body very close to your heart. You don't really want the conductive path to go through your heart, because electricity could stop it cold.

Air is not very conductive, neither is the human body (although the water and chemical soup in our blood does improve conduction), so the millimeters of rubber on your shoe bottoms or pole handle don't necessarily protect you. As someone already mentioned, trees are not good conductors but they get struck alot.
http://hikearizona.com/garmin_maps.php

Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, ankle-twisting, HAZmaster crushing ROCKS!!
Hike Arizona it is full of sharp, pointy, shin-stabbing, skin-shredding plants!
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joebartels
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Re: Lightning

Post by joebartels » Jul 26 2009 8:11 pm

So why aren't more people dying?

On average only 58 people per year are killed by lightning, out of 6.7 billion people on earth. The chances of winning a $100 million powerball are 1 in 146 million.
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azdesertfather
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Re: Lightning

Post by azdesertfather » Jul 26 2009 8:46 pm

Interesting stat:
Previous studies have identified patterns associated with lightning fatalities. For example, approximately 30% of persons struck by lightning die, and 74% of lightning strike survivors have permanent disabilities. In addition, persons with cranial burns or leg burns from lightning are at higher risk for death than others struck by lightning. Sixty-three percent of lightning-associated deaths occur within 1 hour of injury (1), 92% occur during May-September, and 73% occur during the afternoon and early evening. Of persons who died from lightning strikes, 52% were engaged in outdoor recreational activities ;) , and 25% were engaged in work activities.
from http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/PrevGuid/m ... 052833.asp
Last edited by azdesertfather on Jul 26 2009 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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azdesertfather
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Re: Lightning

Post by azdesertfather » Jul 26 2009 8:48 pm

joe bartels wrote:So why aren't more people dying?

On average only 58 people per year are killed by lightning, out of 6.7 billion people on earth. The chances of winning a $100 million powerball are 1 in 146 million.
Wiki's info is a bit different:
Nearly 2000 people per year in the world are injured by lightning strikes. In the USA between 9-10% of those struck die, amounting to an average of 100 fatalities annually. In the United States, it is the #2 weather killer (second only to floods). The odds of an average person living in the USA being struck by lightning in a given year is 1:700,000.
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_strike
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." — Henry David Thoreau

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azdesertfather
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Re: Lightning

Post by azdesertfather » Jul 26 2009 8:53 pm

Hey, speaking of metal risk...this is from the National Lightning Safety Institute (I just lifted one paragraph pertinent to the topic here):
IF OUTDOORS...Avoid water. Avoid the high ground. Avoid open spaces. Avoid all metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc. Unsafe places include underneath canopies, small picnic or rain shelters, or near trees. Where possible, find shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle such as a car, truck or a van with the windows completely shut. If lightning is striking nearby when you are outside, you should:
A. Crouch down. Put feet together. Place hands over ears to minimize hearing damage from thunder.
B. Avoid proximity (minimum of 15 ft.) to other people.
from http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/lst.html
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chumley
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Re: Lightning

Post by chumley » Jul 26 2009 9:02 pm

IF OUTDOORS...Avoid all metal objects including electric wires, fences, machinery, motors, power tools, etc.
As Joe stated ... these metal objects are all grounded. Absolutely they must be avoided. Just like wiring or plumbing in your own home. But if you are carrying an anvil in your backpack and it is not grounded, it will do no less or greater harm to you if lightning strikes.
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Grasshopper
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Re: Lightning

Post by Grasshopper » Jul 26 2009 10:34 pm

dshillis wrote:The odds of an average person living in the USA being struck by lightning in a given year is 1:700,000.
I don't think WE fall into the average person category for people living in the USA, so I would think our outdoor odds for being struck are higher..

For me, this is one of the more interesting and informative threads we have had going in a while and amAZingly 32 posts and still on topic!! :)
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Grasshopper
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Re: Lightning

Post by Grasshopper » Jul 31 2010 2:42 pm

Since we are now into another AZ monsoon season with lightning always a concern while hiking and once again, recommended "safety guidelines" an important need-to-know, I thought I would revive this very informative thread which we started last July'09.
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Al_HikesAZ
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Re: Lightning

Post by Al_HikesAZ » Jul 31 2010 3:13 pm

Lots of good stuff in this thread. One thing I want to emphasize that isn't spelled out explicitly above. There are three threats from lightning: 1) the hit 2) the splash and 3) the travel.

What do you think happens to that lightning when it hits the ground? It travels - mostly downhill following the terrain. That is why you don't go under overhangs or into shallow caves. On ledges, don't crouch near the vertical wall, go to the outside of the ledge. It ain't past you til it's past you!!!

Another thing is the first aid after a strike. I'm not going to reinvent a description, I am lifting this from about.com
First Aid for Lightning Victims
What to Do if Lightning Strikes While Climbing
By Stewart Green, About.com Guide http://climbing.about.com/od/climberlig ... rstAid.htm

The worst thing to happen during a thunder storm is that you or someone in your party is struck by lightning.
Follow these first aid steps immediately:
1. Go or call for medical help immediately.
Call 911 immediately. This can be difficult if you are in the backcountry and don’t have cell phone service and are a long way from a trailhead or cell service. Tell where you are, provide directions to your location, and tell about the number of strike victims and their condition.
2. Assess the situation
Check out the situation. Was only one person struck or are there multiple victims? Is the storm still raging? Are you safe when you administer first aid? It’s important not to create more casualities. Be aware of continuing lightning danger to victims and rescuers. Don’t expose yourself, the victims, or rescuers to additional lightning risk. If necessary, move the victim to a safer location before providing first aid. Also consider if the victim was directly struck by lightning or struck by ground currents. Direct strikes are, of course, much more serious.
3. Check for breathing and heartbeat
Next step is check if the victim is breathing and has a heartbeat. The best places to check for a pulse are at the carotid artery in the neck and the femoral artery behind the knee. Lightning often causes cardiac arrest.
4. Administer CPR
If he isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a heartbeat, immediately begin providing CPR, following the current Red Cross specs—2 rescue breaths followed by 30 fast chest compressions in 30 seconds. Continue CPR until rescue arrives, although if there is no response after 30 minutes then the chances of survival are slim. It’s a great idea for every climber to take a basic Red Cross first aid course and get CPR certified so that you can do the right thing in emergency situations.
5. Other Lightning Injuries
Besides cardiac and respiratory arrest, other lightning-caused injuries are burns, shock, brain injury, muscular and skeletal damage, and sometimes blunt trauma including broken bones and ruptured organs. Some victims also experience nervous system disruption with loss of consciousness and amnesia. Treat all these injuries with basic first aid until help arrives. Death by lightning usually results from cardiac arrest.
Be careful out there. :pray:
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Al_HikesAZ
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Re: Lightning

Post by Al_HikesAZ » Jul 31 2010 3:34 pm

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A TON OF CURE.
Avoiding the lightning altogether is the best advice.
1) Check the weather forecast before going out. Read the paper, listen to the radio, check the internet. And in AZ you can be pretty certain that during monsoon season that a storm is likely to fire up in the afternoon. Be prepared for it.
2) Hike in the morning before the monsoons fire up. Around Flag and the Rim, the monsoons fire up from noon into the afternoon. Get your hike in early.
3) Be prepared to change your plans. Don't become so obsessed with a summit that you risk your life. It will still be there. Try again some other time.
4) Pay attention to the weather and especially atmospheric changes. Rogue bolts can hit far from the last bolt and the main storm. If you hear a crackling noise, smell the distinctive smell of ozone, see a blue glow or St. Elmo's fire around your hiking partner's head, or your hair is standing on end, descend and take cover. But also know that rogue bolts can strike without any warning sign.
5) Get off high places before the storm hits.
6) Learn to recognize the thunderstorms that produce a lot of lighting. The Cumulonimbus clouds that have intense vertical development and the dark anvil shape are the worst.
7) We discussed this earlier - know how to use thunder to estimate how far a storm is from you.
8. ) Also discussed earlier - the 30-30 rule.

This probably should go into a different thread, but I'll mention it here - Rain miles away on a watershed can cause a flashflood in the dry canyon you might be hiking in. Floods kill more people than lightning. Know how to avoid a flashflood and how to deal with one.

Stay safe.
Anybody can make a hike harder. The real skill comes in making the hike easier.
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JimmyLyding
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Re: Lightning

Post by JimmyLyding » Jul 31 2010 8:49 pm

Had a close call yesterday: http://hikearizona.com/trip=53251

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big_load
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Re: Lightning

Post by big_load » Jul 31 2010 9:26 pm

Lightning is scary stuff. Be careful everyone!

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Re: Lightning

Post by azbackpackr » Aug 01 2010 5:11 am

How far away did the most recent bolt hit? Count 5 seconds to the mile. One-mississippi-two-mississippi, etc. Keep counting as you hear the booms, to find out if they seem to be coming closer or not.

Good info on this thread, and this year I am pleased to see that everyone has learned how to spell lightning! ;)
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Re: Lightning

Post by --- » Aug 01 2010 5:28 pm

I was hiking with a friend in Paradise Park several years ago. We came to an area where what appeared to be freshly cut lumber about 2" x 2" and 5 or 6 ft. long were randomly stuck into the ground. As we stood there scratching our heads and wondering why anyone would do that, I happened to look up. One of the ponderosas nearby was completely missing its top.

One of the best places in the state to get caught in a lightning storm is the Chiricahuas during monsoon season. I don't know how many times I have been up there in my rain gear, being soaked by a downpour with lightning strikes all around.

Waiting out an intense lightning storm in a tent is a trip. Flashes that light up the inside of the tent like daylight followed by pitch blackness.

I have seen/heard more flash/bangs that I care to think about. That's some scary stuff.

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Re: Lightning

Post by RedRoxx44 » Aug 02 2010 7:40 am

Been in a cave during a storm, think if you are away from the entrance you'll be ok. On an exposed area in the Gila---close enough to make me deaf in one side for a couple of days and feel hot on one side of my face for a couple of hours. I crouched down and threw my trekking poles away from me for that one.

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