When I was a young adult, I got caught in a thunderstorm in the wilderness with a friend. We had hiked all day, the two of us, my first hike without any other adults (I was probably in high school or just in college). We had several mishaps that day, and were exhausted in the evening when we went to set up camp. A very active thunderstorm rolled up the valley to the lake where we were camped, and sat above us for what seemed like an eternity. The hair on my arms was standing on end, the thunder was deafening, and there was no gap between when the lightning flashed and when we heard the thunder. Rain pummeled our tent, literally running through it like a river. I thought we were going to die.
Well, we survived. I never felt the same about thunderstorms since then. Now this summer we’ve had a strange pattern of weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and we’ve gotten many more thunderstorms than we are used to. On Friday I had to cancel our hiking plans because of an overnight thunderstorm that lingered into the morning hours. Two weeks ago we passed through thunderstorms in Eastern and Central Washington. It brings back memories of that long, terrifying night in the wilderness, and the fear I had as I realized I didn’t know what to do.
I have come across two articles this week that have helped me learn a bit more about what I could have done to stay safer during that thunderstorm years ago. Probably the easiest tip is to avoid hiking when there is a high chance of thunderstorms. But sometimes those storms come up when you don’t expect them, and you might have no choice but to sit them out. I hope you’ll take the time to read these websites, as they have given me some good ideas (how to crouch, first aid if someone is struck, how to choose the safest place to hunker down).
- Washington Trails Association article.
- Backpacker Magazine mythbusting article.
- NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Questions and Answers about Thunderstorms.
Stay safe out there this summer. And if you know of any other good sites, or have some good stories to tell, let me know in the comments.