America Camping Xplorers




Don’t stand under or near large objects, like tall trees. Lightning is more likely to hit something tall. A person can conduct electricity much better than air can; therefore lightning can travel through you to reach the ground.

Hiking on the trail during a thunderstorm is not a wise thing to do if you are exposed. If you’re in a forest, there are many trees about and your chances of being hit by lightning are not very likely, however the risks are higher along an exposed trail. Just make sure it isn’t a lone tree or the tallest one around. You don’t want to try and hide from a thunderstorm next to a lightning rod! You should get as low as possible to the ground. Regrettably; shallow caves and overhanging rocks provide only shelter from the rain. They don’t increase your safety from lightning strikes by very much, as in other exposed mountain locations.

During a thunderstorm, it is likely that campers will want to stay in their tents. This may provide shelter from the rain, but if you lie down in the tent, you are at risk from ground currents, which might prefer to run through you, from head to foot (or the other way around) as you lie in contact with the ground. Such a current flow would probably stop your heart. If you are standing up, but with your feet spread apart, a potential (voltage) difference could exist between your feet, encouraging current to run up one leg and down the other. It might not stop your heart, but it probably would be very unpleasant, given what it would likely pass through on its way! Hence, when sheltering from the rain in tents, you need to be taking steps to reduce the danger from ground currents. It is not known, to what extent air mattresses and foam pads will protect you, while lying down, though insulating your contact points from the ground, it may not make much of a difference (considering the huge amounts of energy in lightning) but electrical theories are in our favor and well worth the effort in our opinion!

If you have chosen a campsite in an exposed location and your tents\RVs\Trailers are the highest objects nearby, immediately abandon such a campsite and all your gear, and move to a better location until the lightning passes over. Campsites located among many taller trees would probably be all right, in the sense that the chances of your particular location being struck are pretty low. However, you could still be unlucky, and the risk from ground currents and secondary strikes from lightning hitting nearby trees remains.

This is a reality check!  If thunderstorms are in the forecast; don’t go camping in that region!  But if you’re in it, an RV will be much better for riding out a thunderstorm than a tent. Note that non-metallic tent frames aren’t much difference than metal frames, in terms of the lightning threat. The same goes for various forms of “insulation” between the tent and the ground. If a lightning flash has passed through thousands of feet of air (a terrific insulator), a few cm of rubber or whatever isn’t going to make any difference that matters.

If the lightning is already occurring near you and you need to move to a safer camping site, do not save time by cutting through an open area where you would be the tallest object around. If you can’t find a trail through the woods, it’s too late and you would be better off staying in an area surrounded by trees or other tall objects than taking a chance crossing an open area.

If the lightning is not yet in your immediate vicinity but is approaching (the time from flash-to-bang is getting shorter), then if you have time to cross the open area to reach a better shelter, then do so quickly so that you’re not caught in the open. If the flash-to-bang time is less than about 30 seconds, then you are most likely better off with the shelter you have than to risk moving.

Although lightning is seemingly random, there are some things you can do to minimize your risks if you are caught in the open during a thunderstorm:

  • Avoid being the tallest object around. Go into a squat, getting as low as you can, and try not to lie prone on the ground. Get off any mountaintop as fast as you safety can without harming yourself or others.
  • It also is unwise to be near the tallest object around, like an isolated tree. Sheltering from the rain under a tree is often a factor in people being struck. Depressions in a rock or shallow caves don’t offer much protection from lightning on a mountaintop. Your best protection is to get down from the peaks as quickly as possible. You might have to leave your gear behind. You can always go back and retrieve it after the storm passes.

There is no “warning sign” that will tell you reliably that lightning is about to strike.

Don’t depend on having your hair stand on end, or whatever. The first sign of a lightning strike may be the flash itself. Of course, if your hair does stand on end, then you should take steps to protect yourself immediately!

Take shelter if the time from seeing a flash to the time you hear thunder is 30 seconds or less, and don’t resume activities until 30 minutes have elapsed from the last lightning and thunder. The time from the flash to the thunder is a rough measure of how distant the lightning is. If you see a flash and count the seconds, five seconds corresponds to about a mile. However, there is no distance from a thunderstorm that is absolutely safe! If you can see the lightning, then you are under some threat.

This is another good option for riding out a storm. Stay away from any electrical appliances and large windows during the storm. Keep in mind that strong and gusty winds may accompany many storms and can damage a camper that is exposed.

<strong “mso-bidi-font-weight:=”” normal”=””>Avoid Water – Get out of the pool, lake, ocean, or any body of water. Water conducts electricity because of all of the minerals in it; meaning that electricity can travel through water. Storms may produce flash flooding, so stay out of obvious washes and dry creek bed areas.

  • You do not have to be directly hit by the lightning to be affected. Lightning can travel along the ground from a nearby strike to you. It can also jump from nearby objects that are struck.
  • Avoid being near fence lines and power lines that lead into areas where lightning is occurring. A flash can travel along the wires and jump to you.

Take the lightning position. Sit down and pull your knees up to your chest. Wrap your arms around your legs, keep your feet together, place your head on your knees and close your eyes. The goal is to make as small a target as possible for lightning.

Get medical help immediately if someone is struck! In the meantime, administer CPR to any lightning strike victims if their heart has stopped and they have stopped breathing until professional medical help arrives. If they are simply not conscious, treat for shock (not electrical shock!). The treatment for lightning is not the same as someone that has been electrocuted by household, alternating current. For standard electrical shock, the medical team would administer fluids, which is the wrong thing to do with lightning victims.

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