Did you know that Colorado is only third in annual lightening deaths? It was actually recently only second to Florida! The south and west are the most dangerous states in terms of death rates caused by lightning.
I recently saw a very sad story on the news. Earlier this month a bride on her honeymoon was struck by lightening and died. Here is a link to Katie’s Go Fund Me Page, with my background in Outdoor Leadership I am hoping to spread the word to help educate people about lightening safety.
“On July 11th 2015, Katie married the love of her life, Ryan. Together they embarked on their first journey together as a married couple doing what they both loved best, hiking in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. They had a wonderful week enjoying each others company in the great outdoors. On the last day of their honeymoon they hiked their way to the top of Mt. Yale to enjoy the beautiful scenery around them. On their trek back down the mountain a storm quickly moved overhead. Nearly at treeline, the couple was struck by lightning. Sadly Katie passed away, and her husband was critically injured. Ryan is now recovering, but is heartbroken that his “Katie bear” is gone. Katie had the inscription “Bears for Life” written on the inside of his wedding band because they always called each other by their playful nickname of “bear”.”
Planning ahead is the best way to stay safe outdoors. Know the weather patterns of the area you plan to visit. For example, in mountainous areas, (like Colorado) thunderstorms typically develop in the early afternoon, so plan to hike early in the day and be down the mountain by noon, so you are safe in your car when the 3pm storms roll in. Listen to the weather forecast for the outdoor area you plan to visit. The forecast may be very different from the one near your home. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, stay inside.
According to the National Weather Service, there is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors. Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many of the lightning deaths and injuries in the United States.
When a Safe Location is not Nearby, for instance if you are miles from your car or treeline here are some tips to lessen your vulnerability. If you absolutely cannot get to safety, you can slightly lessen the threat of being struck with the following tips. But don’t kid yourself–you are NOT safe outside.
- Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
- If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members.
- If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
- Stay away from water, wet items, such as ropes, and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal do not attract lightning but they are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
Additionally, it is recommended that you wait 30 minutes until after the last rumble of thunder before going back to your campsite or hiking trail.
For more information please check out the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS Safety Guidelines PDF.
Here is one last resource, here are two videos by Meteorologist Chris Tomer on the Colorado 14ers Initiative’s page about decision making when hiking to mountain summits “How to Stay Safe Climbing in Monsoon Season” & “Should I Turn Around or Go to the Summit?“. I hope these help you make smart decision outdoors!
Sheena Harper Photography | 719.686.8650 | www.SheenaHarper.com