How to stay safe when lightning strikes

Our region has experienced a barrage of lightning strikes over the past several days and there is much more predicted for the coming week. At a time when there are numerous outdoor activities planned, Lassen News thought it would be a good time to remind individuals about what to do if they are caught outside in a storm.

The following scenarios and what-you-should-do information are shared by the National Weather Service. Take the time to read it, some of the advice might surprise you.

At the beach or lake
Your family plans to go to the beach today. The weather forecast calls for a nice morning followed by a 30 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms. When you get to the beach, you see that the only nearby structures are open-sided picnic shelters. The parking lot is a 5-minute walk from the beach. By early afternoon skies are darkening and you hear distant thunder. What should you do? Go to your car! Do not seek shelter under the beach picnic shelters. Wait 30 minutes until after the last rumble of thunder before going back to the beach.

Outdoor sports teams
Your sports team has an evening game at the local park. The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a chance of thunderstorms by early evening. When you arrive at the park, you notice the only safe buildings are the restrooms. Shortly after sunset, the sky gets cloudy, and you see bright flashes in the sky. What should you do? Get everyone into vehicles or the restrooms. Do not stay in the dugouts; they are not safe during lighting activity. Once in a safe place, wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder to resume play.

Camping or climbing or other activities
You’re cooking dinner on the camp stove when you hear distant rumbles of thunder. Your tent and a large open-sided picnic shelter are nearby. Your vehicle is about a quarter of a mile away parked at the trailhead. What should you do? Go to your vehicle. The tent and picnic shelter are not safe places. Wait 30 minutes until the last rumble of thunder before going back to the campsite. For those who cannot get to a vehicle, here are tips from the National Outdoor Leadership School on what to do in the back country, in a canoe, etc.

When a safe location is not nearby
If you absolutely cannot get to safety, you can slightly lessen the threat of being struck by lightning with the following tips. But don’t kid yourself – you are not safe outside. Know the weather patterns of the area you plan to visit. For example, in mountainous areas, thunderstorms typically develop in the early afternoon, so plan to hike early in the day and be down the mountain by noon. 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.

• 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.