There we were. Fourteen hunters huddled together under a large canvas tent that served as our kitchen. The violent storm was moving fast and you could feel the electricity in the air. We knew we could not retreat to our individual tents—that just happened to be really cool teepees complete with their own set of lightning rods pointing directly towards the sky. We also could not stay in the mess tent either. The large metal center support pole was the tallest object for miles. Our best option was to run to our Dodge Ram pickup trucks. And, oh, we were thankful Dodge had sponsored this camp and provided five new trucks to test. Little did we know the trucks would be our only safe shelter during the lightning storm.
Mother Nature—during a mood swing—is certainly cool to watch—until she turns into a raging fire-breathing dragon spewing lightning strikes all around you. Weather and survival experts both tell you to stay away from water, avoid being near trees or in wide-open spaces and to not to be the tallest thing around during a lightning storm.
Basically, you should seek shelter indoors or retreat to a vehicle. All great advice when you are close to home. However, what do you do when you are camping, hiking, hunting or fishing and a severe lightning storm strikes?
What If You’re Outdoors When Lightening Strikes?
If you are in a boat on the water, get off the water as fast as you can. If you cannot get off the water:
- Crouch down in the center of the boat and avoid touching any metal hardware, tackle boxes or the edges of the boat if possible.
- Make sure your fishing poles are not stashed pointing towards the sky.
- Even if you have rubber boots on, try to avoid standing in water.
If a storm strikes while you are hunting or hiking in the woods, with no way to retreat to safe shelter:
- Seek out the shortest shelter you can find such as bushes or small evergreens.
- Do not seek shelter under a tall tree or an isolated tree.
- Avoid open slabs of rock or rock overhangs as the electrical current from a nearby ground strike can travel across wet ground, water and rocks.
- If you are on a ridge top or mountain, get down as low into the valley or gullies as you can.
- If you are carrying a rifle over your shoulder, remove it as it could act as a lightning rod.
There is some debate among experts on whether or not you should retreat from your tent during a storm. Some experts agree if a storm strikes at night and you are in your tent—even under trees—you should stick it out in the tent. You maybe safer simply because of the dangers posed from leaving your tent in a rush and venturing off the trail into the darkness. It is hard to know the right answer for this scenario. There are simply too many variables to consider.
- The universally agreed upon principle is that you need to get as small as possible without lying flat on the ground.
- If you have a rubber air mattress, you should crouch down into a ball on these rubber items and put all of your weight on the balls of your feet.
- If you have rubber-soled shoes or boots, put them on and remove any metal such as watches or cell phones from your body.
Unfortunately, when you are outdoors and a severe lightning storm strikes, there are very few safe places to retreat. But using a little common sense while making yourself as small as possible and removing any metal objects from your person increases your chances of staying alive during severe weather.
Lightning Facts from WeatherUnderground.com
- Lightning strikes kill about 10% of the people struck. This leaves the other 90% with various types of injuries.
- The primary cause of death from lighting is cardiac arrest.
- Unlike high voltage injuries with which massive internal tissue damage may occur, lightning seldom causes substantial burns.
- Most lightning burns are caused by objects such as rainwater, sweat, metal coins and necklaces being heated up and causing the burn.
- Lightning tends to cause injury to the nervous system and may affect any or all parts of the nervous system.
- Most lightning injuries and deaths can be prevented with advance planning, being aware of the developing weather situation and good common sense.
- A weather radio can help keep you informed with the latest thunderstorm information and safety reminders.
Do you have any tips for surviving a lightning storm? Share them with us in the comment section.