How to Survive in a Lightning Storm

How to Survive in a Lightning StormAccording to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an average of 90 people are killed from lightning strikes in the United States each year. While hiking those awesome skylines in the Rocky Mountains, or climbing cliffs in Utah, remember these simple tips. Even though the chance of being struck by lightning is, statistically speaking, small, knowing how to avoid lightning may save your life.


Difficulty: Easy

Avoid and Evade

Things You’ll Need:
  • Quick feet
  • Good sense
  • Watchful eye
Step 1
Pay attention to the weather. Check the forecast before heading out on a hike. Weather can change quickly in the mountains. So always be mindful of the clouds. Dark underbellies, changing winds, and a scent of rain all portend bad weather. Watch the leaves too; the low pressure associated with rains turns leaves over.
Step 2
Be willing to turn around. If you are hiking to the summit of a mountain, be sure to yield to weather conditions, especially if you are above the tree line.
Step 3
Take caution, be prudent, and stay mindful. React before the weather changes, not afterward. Always respect the wilderness, and never go toe to toe with a thunderstorm. It is better to be late in this world than early in the next.

What to do if caught in the weather

Step 1
Turn off all electrical equipment. Cell phones and GPS devices make for good conductors.
Step 2
Make sure nothing metal is protruding from your body, backpack, or gear.
Step 3
Find shelter fast. Get below the tree line immediately, and continue to descend quickly.
Step 4
Keep moving. Don't stop. The chances of being struck decrease the more you move. Keep heading down the mountain, back to shelter, or away from the storm. Additionally, trees, once struck, can shatter, sending out lethal shrapnel. Don't stay under any one tree too long.
Step 5
Look for shelter. Find a cave, a low lying depression, anything that is out of the wind and unlikely to be struck. In a worst case scenario, lie down between some rocks.

If you get that feeling...

Step 1
Being struck by lightning is often preceded by a sensation of all your hair standing on end, along your arms and the back of your neck. If you have this feeling, and you are in (or near) a thunderstorm, the chances are you have sent up a "positive streamer." If this sudden charge connects with the electrons pooling beneath the clouds, lightning will strike. If you feel this sensation, either run as fast as you can, or drop down on your knees, bend forward and place both hands on the ground.
Step 2
Do not lie down completely. If lightning strikes you, you want it to take the shortest path to the ground. This will be through your arms, and hopefully will miss your vitals.
Step 3
Use good sense and judgment. It is best to preempt the weather rather than get trapped in it. In those times when the potential to be struck by lightning is high, run quickly to low lying areas and wait out the storm.

Tips & Warnings

Sitting in a car is safer than being outside in a storm -- the tires act as insulators and keep the car's contact with the ground from becoming a conductor.


Article Written By Benjamin Williams

Ben Williams is an award-winning reporter and freelance writer based out of Colorado. He has written for conglomerates of newspapers and magazines, supplying news, features, editorial and opinion. While running an Energy Services and consulting firm, he also writes for multiple websites.

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