Avoid a Lightning Strike

It's a warm summer afternoon and you're out hiking, camping or fishing in the wilderness. Suddenly the weather changes and the risk of a lightning strike increases. What do you do? Do you know the best way to avoid a lightning strike? Below are the best tips to avoid being struck by lightning.

Lightning strikes can happen at a moments notice. Even if you checked the local weather before heading out there's a chance that an electrical storm can develop. To stay safe you'll want to avoid climbing mountains in late afternoons and be prepared to take cover.

Tips to Avoid a Lightning Strike

  • Stay away from open meadows or lake shorelines. Lightning is attracted to the highest object in an area. If you're in the middle of an open meadow you become the obvious target.

  • Find a low area such as a ditch or depression and get down as low as possible.

  • Keep your arms and legs close together. If your legs are spread out, the strike will arch between your legs and cause more damage.

  • Don't lay down. Create the smallest surface area possible. Crouch down but stay on your feet with your legs together.

  • Avoid standing under the tallest tree. Find cover in the most uniform forest possible. Stay away from open areas and the tallest trees in the forest.

  • Get in your car. Cars with metal roofs are actually quite safe. The lightning will strike the car and the electricity will pass around you and into the ground through the rubber tires. Convertibles and soft top vehicles are not a safe option.

  • Don't use an umbrella and avoid holding any metal object that may attract the lightning.

  • Spread out. Stay more than 50 feet away from others in your group to reduce the risk of being struck together.

Interesting Facts about Lightning*

  • 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year

  • The air within a lightning strike can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Lightning can heat its path five times hotter than the surface of the sun

  • One ground lightning stroke can generate between 100 million and 1 billion volts of electricity

*According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)

Lighting can strike with little to no warning. Be prepared and know how to reduce your risk of danger. If you follow the advice in this post you should be able to avoid a lightning strike. For more truths about many popular lightning myths, check out this information from Backpacker Magazine.

Have you ever been stuck in a lightning storm? What was the closest you've been to being struck by lightning?
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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