Lightning safety when hiking

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chumley
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Lightning safety when hiking

Post by chumley » Jul 06 2015 10:56 am

I was just reading up on lightning safety and thought it would be good to refresh the basics. So many hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in Arizona are vulnerable to lightning each year (especially during the summer monsoon). It is good to know the good and the bad.

The first and most important thing is that there is no such thing as a safe place outdoors during an electrical storm. None. Period.

If at all possible, get inside a modern building and stay away from metal. The second best alternative if you are outdoors is to get inside an enclosed vehicle with a metal roof. Convertibles, canvas top Jeeps or the bed of a pickup truck offer no protection from a strike.

Lightning Position
If shelter is not available the safest thing you can do is get in the "lightning position". Scientists are not aware of anybody having ever been injured in a lightning strike while in the lightning position.

To get in the lightning position, you should squat as low as possible to the ground and keep your feet together. Wrap your arms around your knees. Do this on a foam sleeping pad or pile of clothes if available. Close your eyes. Space yourself 50-feet from other members of your group in case somebody is injured, others will be able to help.

Understand how lightning strikes to minimize the potential that you become a streamer. In terrain with tall trees, mountains and ridges you can help identify risk areas and minimize those risks.

In rolling hills or flat, open desert, lightning strikes are much more random, and the only thing you can do is look for a ravine of some kind. Just a few feet of height can make a difference. It is why the lightning position is significantly better than standing up.

The National Weather Service has a website for lightning safety outdoors. It basically says "get indoors". http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.shtml

Must-Read Guide
But the website also provides a link to a PDF published by The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). If you go outside regularly you should read this. Read it again until you understand it and remember it. There is a ton of useful information in it.
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NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guidelines.pdf
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big_load
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by big_load » Jul 13 2015 9:53 pm

Tough_Boots wrote:I didn't realize until today that there is such a thing as a portable lightning detector. Anyone have any experience with these?
Benjamin Franklin did. :scared:

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skatchkins
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by skatchkins » Jul 14 2015 9:46 am

Tough_Boots wrote:I didn't realize until today that there is such a thing as a portable lightning detector. Anyone have any experience with these?
I like that WeatherBug finally added an actual tracker to their app instead of just the distance.
I'm enjoying it. It also shows the location of the closest strike. Distance drops to zero if the flash is bright/close enough and then targets its actual touchdown better in next couple seconds.
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Tough_Boots
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by Tough_Boots » Jul 14 2015 10:56 am

@skatchkins

that looks like a pretty cool app. I was looking at a little unit called the AcuRite Portable Lightning Detector that seems to have decent reviews. Its only $25 on Amazon and claims to give you a mileage estimate in about 3 seconds of each strike.
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CannondaleKid
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by CannondaleKid » Jul 14 2015 11:55 am

Portable lightning detectors have been around since the dawn of man...
When your hair stands on end during a thunderstorm it's a pretty good indicator of a strong electrical event about to happen.
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Alston_Neal
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by Alston_Neal » Jul 14 2015 12:24 pm

CannondaleKid wrote:Portable lightning detectors have been around since the dawn of man...
When your hair stands on end during a thunderstorm it's a pretty good indicator of a strong electrical event about to happen.
Does that give you enough time to squat, put your head between your knees and kiss your @$$ goodbye?
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gummo
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by gummo » Jul 15 2015 9:29 am

I don't want to brag, but I've never been struck by lightning.

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The_Eagle
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by The_Eagle » Jul 15 2015 9:38 am

gummo wrote:I don't want to brag, but I've never been struck by lightning.
I woulda lost that bet.... That would have explained some things.... :lol:
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RowdyandMe
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by RowdyandMe » Jul 18 2015 9:39 pm

Well when I was hiking today I got a little rain and some lighting. I wasn't close but I thought about it as I was hiking with my aluminum trekking pole.
It does have a rubber handle.
I gur it will melt in your hands and not your mouth.
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joebartels
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by joebartels » Jul 22 2015 3:46 pm

Hike Arizona it ROCKS!

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friendofThundergod
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by friendofThundergod » Jul 22 2015 4:28 pm

@joe bartels
The two quickly found a spark
Maybe a poor choice of words after someone is struck by lightning?? Come on editor..

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Tough_Boots
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by Tough_Boots » Jul 22 2015 4:52 pm

too soon, Lee... too soon.
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chumley
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by chumley » Aug 07 2015 12:13 pm

Fascinating video recorded at 2000 fps and shown in super slow-mo really gives a good picture of how lightning strikes.
https://vimeo.com/133398724
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Tough_Boots
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by Tough_Boots » Aug 07 2015 1:11 pm

he needs to get his wiper motor replaced :D
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autumnstars
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by autumnstars » Aug 08 2015 10:03 am

I wonder how many people on here have been struck by lightning?
My guess is that it would be a higher % than the average population.
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wha
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by wha » Aug 08 2015 11:30 am

I've been close to lightning strikes, maybe a couple hundred feet, but never struck.

I've also been very close to ball lightning. Sitting in a mobile home living room, watching a Wisconsin thunderstorm, a glowing ball came through a window, passed between us and exited the other side of the room. Or maybe it was a ghosty.

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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by azbackpackr » Aug 08 2015 12:28 pm

@w h a
Whoa, Nelly! That's spooky all right!
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JasonCleghorn
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by JasonCleghorn » Aug 08 2015 6:19 pm

autumnstars wrote:I wonder how many people on here have been struck by lightning?
My guess is that it would be a higher % than the average population.
Was about 10-20 feet away. Couldn't hear for two days. Worse than post-concert. Back in AL, I was about 10 years old. My dad and I had just gotten out of our vehicle at someone's house and it hit a tree probably no further than 10-20 feet away. Was VERY lucky to not get actually hit. Loudest sound I ever heard. Louder than our field artillery in the Army...
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azbackpackr
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by azbackpackr » Aug 08 2015 6:55 pm

@Jason Cleghorn
Wow! Scary! Glad you're still with us!
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by SpiderLegs » Aug 09 2015 5:17 am

Back in college I was out rock climbing on Mt. Lemmon. My friend and I were generally really good about figuring out how much time we had left to climb before the afternoon monsoons rolled in. One day we miscalculated and spent one horrifying hour holed up in a small cave with lightning crashing all around us.
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hikeaz
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Re: Lightning safety when hiking

Post by hikeaz » Aug 10 2015 8:10 am

Yep...
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