According to scientists, some 1500 lightning flashes happen around the Earth – continuously sparking millions of strikes simultaneously. Unfortunately, campers still get caught in lightning storms with little knowledge of lightning itself, minimal preparation time, and few escape options.
Hiking is a soft adventure sport and many people go around hiking in mountain ridges to witness the landscape and mountain views. As such it’s a beautiful sight but danger also lies within somewhere hidden. Mostly the weather deteriorates in afternoons in the mountains, it is likely that a thunderstorm can come and there is possibly a lightning strike. This is a natural phenomenon and here are some things you can do to keep you and your team safe.
Why Is Lightning So Dangerous?
Lightning is an electrical discharge that occurs between clouds or between clouds and the earth. Most often, such discharges hit the nearest, and therefore, the highest places on the ground. And that’s why mountain peaks become favourite targets.
How lightening happens
Although lightning tends to hit the highest protrusions and peaks, it sometimes cheats – meaning that it doesn’t always do so. Electrical charges go for the nearest object on the ground – including someone in the middle of a forest or field.
How to Avoid Lightning Strikes When Hiking
The best survival technique is to predict, avoid and act. So while you are on a hike, be sensitive to potential dander, steer clear of it, and adapt to the situation. You cannot avoid lightning strikes, but you can surely reduce being hit by one by your action plan.
Always check the weather forecast before your schedule. Your iPhone can tell you the weather forecast with much accuracy.
Predict the weather way ahead
Weather in the Mountains is often unpredictable. It will be a bright sunny day that will turn cloudy from nowhere in a matter of minutes. Use your senses and your guide knowledge to predict one. The absence of wind for a long time is often a sign of a thunderstorm.
The Earlier, The Better
The best time to hike is early morning, as the weather may be trouble in the afternoon. Once you see the thunderstorm building up, start planning to get some shelter.
Calculate how far it is
Once you see the lightning, count the seconds till you hear the thunder, then divide that figure by three to come up with the distance in kilometres.
Action Plan for an Approaching Thunderstorm
Your action plan can decide how efficient you are to avoid such a dangerous situation. Here are some things you can do to not becoming a potential target to lightening.
- On a mountain top Open Space
If you are on a mountain top with open space.
- Leave the open space If you are on a summit or top of a mountain ridge, leave as quickly as you can.
- Switch off all electrical devices such attracts even more electrical activity. To be doubly safe, remove the batteries. No lights in tent.
- Find a safe and dry place Try to find a rock cornice, cave, or even a tent in a dry area.
- Be careful with caves though caves can keep you dry, they have wet moss and lichen which can transmit electrical current. Stay at least a meter away from the walls and three meters away from the ceiling.
- Use a high rock or tree as a lightning rod A rock or a tree, kept at a distance of at least 10 meters away from you, is sufficient to draw the lighting away from you or your group.
- Isolate from the ground keep a tourist rug (folded several times) or a dry rope under your feet.
- Do not walk in Open Walking will put you at a higher risk of getting hit. If do you have to walk, don’t do so continuously – stop occasionally.
- In the Forest
If you are in a forest with dense cover.
- Pick your trees carefullydon’t pitch your tent near oaks since they’re virtual lightning magnets. Smooth-bark trees appear to be more immune to lightning because they become thoroughly wet during storms
- Avoid lone trees Never camp under a lone tree as they are lightning magnets – a big mistake you must avoid.
- Be careful with metal equipment Experienced hikers keep all metal away from their shelter. This includes trekking sticks, ice axes, metal tableware, etc. Lightning can turn them into a lightning rod if it strikes where you’re staying. keep them at a safe distance of about 50 meters away.
- Put out campfires A pillar of smoke is an ionized gas that can transmit electricity – So turn off the fire in presence of the lightning god.
- Avoid water Being in water or nearby water is a good chance of getting electrocuted. So stay away from lakes, springs, and even puddles.
Latent Danger of Lightning
Lightning strikes are fatal including the direct strike and the ones even within 10-50 meters near you. The Current can travel in wet ground and can electrocute you. The current can pass through your body and can severely damage your skins and internal organs. A direct strike can burn someone alive. The Victim can faint, and can go into shock, and will need urgent medical assistance. If there are multiple victims, help them according to the urgency of their need, first the ones who cannot breathe, but help all of them at the same time if possible.
Deal with the situation
Keep calm and organized. Panicking will not help at all. If someone is hit by lightning, assist him the best way possible and take him to the nearest medical assistance as soon as possible to save his life.
Hopefully, this article will save you and your friends while hiking. Share this knowledge with your fellow hikers, and make some backup plans with them. And if possible make some mock drills before you come to action, just to ensure everyone knows what to do. Never underestimate the Danger.