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Thread: What do you do in a lightning storm?

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    Resident Wildman Wildthang's Avatar
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    Default What do you do in a lightning storm?

    I was looking at this cool picture, and it reminded me of a storm I was in one time. It seemed like lightning was coming from everywhere, and I was camped out in the woods with trees for miles around. I thought about getting out of my tent and going to a safer location, but there wasn't a safer location close enough to consider hiking to. I just stayed in my tent, and hope like h*ll that it didn't hit close. Every since that happened, I have often wondered if there was something else I could have done that would have been safer, but when there are trees for miles around, it just doesn't seem like you have many options other than trying to dig a hole and crawl into it.
    Have you ever been caught in a severs lightning storm with nowhere to go?

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    The first thing you need to assess is the geography. Is the woods flat, rolling, hilly or mountainous? You obviously want to be as low as possible. If you can hear thunder you are capable of being struck by lightening.

    The next thing you need to do is assess what is overhead. We've talked about widow makers but thunderstorms often produce high winds and limbs that might have appeared safe in still wind will deserve another look.

    Assess your tent. What kind of poles do you have? If they are metal then it's not a good place to be. If they are fiberglass or some composite material then you'll be much safer.

    Assess the height of the surrounding trees. You do not want to under or near the tallest of them. Make certain, too, that you are not in a meadow or other opening in the woods. That would make you or your tent the tallest object. Not what you want to be.

    Actually, the safest method is some overhead tree growth then squat down on the balls of your feet. That offers less contact with the ground and provides a small direct path for electricity to travel. Kneeling or lying down places more of your body surface in contact with the ground and actually provides a better overall conductor. If you feel the hair on your arms or head start to raise as in static electricity then haul your touche out of there. You are about to become a ground rod.

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    Resident Wildman Wildthang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    The first thing you need to assess is the geography. Is the woods flat, rolling, hilly or mountainous? You obviously want to be as low as possible. If you can hear thunder you are capable of being struck by lightening.

    The next thing you need to do is assess what is overhead. We've talked about widow makers but thunderstorms often produce high winds and limbs that might have appeared safe in still wind will deserve another look.

    Assess your tent. What kind of poles do you have? If they are metal then it's not a good place to be. If they are fiberglass or some composite material then you'll be much safer.

    Assess the height of the surrounding trees. You do not want to under or near the tallest of them. Make certain, too, that you are not in a meadow or other opening in the woods. That would make you or your tent the tallest object. Not what you want to be.

    Actually, the safest method is some overhead tree growth then squat down on the balls of your feet. That offers less contact with the ground and provides a small direct path for electricity to travel. Kneeling or lying down places more of your body surface in contact with the ground and actually provides a better overall conductor. If you feel the hair on your arms or head start to raise as in static electricity then haul your touche out of there. You are about to become a ground rod.
    Sounds like good advice Rickster, but I would probably never squat on the balls of my feet in the pouring rain. My tent was in a small opening to avoid falling limbs, and I was on ground slightley higher than the surrounding areas, but basically there were not many hills or valleys. So I figured since the tent had a plastic bottom, and fiberglass poles, I was just as safe in there as anywhere else I could be. I was also wrapped up in my sleeping bag for whatever extra protection it would provide.
    Overall, it was a pretty scarry 3 or 4 hours!

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    Senior Member Thaddius Bickerton's Avatar
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    I just sit and watch n listen to the storm.

    Things I can't control I don't worry about

    Usually If I have a tent I'll just roll up n take a nap.

    Now old dog , she gets scared, so I have her pressing up against me so I have to take a minute to pet her.

    but I do know all the safety things, just reached a point where I don't worry much about stuff since I almost automatically set myself up the best I can in any camp. (like not where flash flood etc.)
    Thaddius Bickerton

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Something to keep in mind.......fiberglass may not attract lightning. Fiberglass may not be a conductor. Wet tent and fiberglass are.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    You might want to be on the balls of your feet in the pouring rain if you are in any of the not prime situations mentioned above. For instance, it's pretty common for me to pitch a tent in a meadow rather than the woods if I happen to come across one. I wouldn't pick up my tent and move camp to the woods in the dark or when the storm is rolling in. I would dawn my poncho and traipse into the woods if it were bad, however.

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    I've been caught in t-storms many times out on the beach, way out on the sandbars on the Cape. Not much out there taller than you. I do what Rick mentioned. Hunkered down low under a poncho and try to be lower than the scant vegetation out there. Usually the marsh grass is pretty high. On rare occasions (really bad lightning) I've planted a sandspike and fishing rod then left it some ways up the beach. Not sure that helps but it makes me feel better.
    Even if you check the weather reports you can get some strange pop-up storms out there. Usually they are short, fast-moving things. Thankfully haven't been in one in a boat. That would freak me out.

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    Senior Member BornthatWay's Avatar
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    You see when Rick is squatted vdown on the balls of his feet it is easier ti nkiss his well you know good bye if he is hit by lightning. Lol! I am just jealous bev\cause with my arthritis I could not hunker down on the balls of my feet let alone kiss my ,,,,, good bye.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Getting down there is the easy part. Getting back up is what prompts the call to SAR.

    "Help! I've squatted and I can't get up!"

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    Senior Member Winter's Avatar
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    Well, if you are in basic training at Ft Benning, you all sit in formation with a poncho over your head in an open area and pray nobody has enough hair to produce static.
    I had a compass, but without a map, it's just a cool toy to show you where oceans and ice are.

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    Land of a thousand lakes Northern Horseman's Avatar
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    For a lark I bought the Discover Wilderness Survival playing cards with 52 survival strategies, one of which is how to avoid being struck by lightning. not much to add, other than what rick said about crouching down, it also mentioned don't put your hands on the ground as you crouch, instead put them over your ears to minimize acoustic shock.

    It also recommends that you stay under a small tree or bush, avoid rock outcroppings or rock overhangs and if in a group space your self out 15 to 20 feet apart.
    the card also recommends the "30-30" rule, count the time between seeing lightning and hearing its thunder if its 30 seconds or less, immediately seek shelter or minimize exposure. Stay sheltered for 30 minutes or more after your last thunder (then change your shorts)
    The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct.
    Marcus Tullius Cicero
    (106 BC - 43 BC)

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    I have been caught many times in lightning storms. South Florida is notorious for storms that build quickly and hit hard and then are gone just as quickly. On more than one occasion I have tasted ozone and had my hair stood up.

    What do you do when your out in the ocean or the middle of a lake or canal and a lightning storm comes on? When your riding or walking a levee?

    I was gator hunting one night and we had a good sized gator on the line and he was wrapped on the bottom and a big storm came on. We were in a 16' metal john boat with a 4.9 Evinrude. I pressed the issue with the gator and he won and the hook straightened out. We are boogieing back to the dock and this storm is scary than sheet. I made a couple of comments about our situation and my hunting partner Billy Boots says, "Do you know what they do when it storms like this in Russia?". "No, what?" I replied. "They let it storm! Cause there ain't nothing else they can do about it!" he said. That was a subtle hint for me to shut the hell up. LOL

    The dock already had broken rotted boards everywhere and was now slippery. As we rounded the bend and could see the dock. My other buddy says that at least it has been mainly could to cloud. At which point the lightning struck the dock we would be at in a matter of seconds. When we hit the dock I tied my line and ran all out to the truck. My buddy Rob did like wise. When we got to the truck we realized that Billy Boots had the key and was obviously enjoying our agitation at standing in the middle of a field in a heavy storm.

    Gator season is in the wet season and it will storm while your hunting. Period!

    We also hunt during storm season and we are in knee deep water carrying leaner stands or climbers and trying to get out of the swamp as fast as you can. Once you are out of the water you are on the grade, high ground, until you can get in the truck.

    Nobody wants to listen to advice either. We were out at Big Cypress and a storm caught us. I hauled but back to camp about 7 miles away. I was wearing Dry Ducks and can tell you that on a ATV Dry Ducks are about useless. The wind just pushes the rain right through them. Awesome for hot and humid weather. Just not if your going to be doing 50 MPH. When I got to camp I got in my truck. Everybody else got under an easy up. Also known as an electrode. LOL

    I snapped one photo right after I put on my rain jacket. I passed them at the gate out of the back country and went to camp. The rest of the pictures I took after the lightning had moved on but while it was still raining pretty good. One of the things they do say is not to bunch up like this. Because if there is a strike everybody could be incapacitated and no one will be able to render aid or go for help.

    P5230022.jpg

    P5240024.jpg

    P5240025.jpg

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Old tip from Lee Trevino, the pro golfer......Did get struck a couple of times....and lived.
    Hold up your #1 iron......even God can't hit a one iron......
    Survival isn't a game...it's what you do when the game goes sideways.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    And remember that everything is a conductor if you apply enough voltage and amperage. Lightening seems to know that rule.

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    getting down on the balls of the feet must be instinctive. Many many moons ago a buddy and I were leaving the woods when a storm blew up. It was lightning and we were hunched down on the balls of our feet under a red cedar tree. The lightning hit about 50 feet from us and it got quiet and I thought there was a strong ozone smell. Anyhoo we skitdaddled back to the cabin and holed up. That's the closest I have ever been to lightning.

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    Senior Member Daniel Nighteyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    "Help! I've squatted and I can't get up!"
    Hey, now! I absolutely resemble that remark!!!!

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    Senior Member Daniel Nighteyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winter View Post
    Well, if you are in basic training at Ft Benning, you all sit in formation with a poncho over your head in an open area and pray nobody has enough hair to produce static.
    Sounds about right. BTDT, and I didn't trust 'em then. Still don't trust 'em now...

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    Senior Member Daniel Nighteyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter63 View Post
    Old tip from Lee Trevino, the pro golfer......Did get struck a couple of times....and lived.
    Hold up your #1 iron......even God can't hit a one iron......
    Spoken by a true golfer, for sure... !

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    Senior Member Daniel Nighteyes's Avatar
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    First and foremost, please understand that (a) I grew up along the central Gulf Coast where lightning/thunder is practically an everyday occurrence, and (b) I moved to SoCal in 1988, where such things are an extreme rarity.

    Last Monday, a large bolt of lightning struck in the street just behind Casa Nighteyes. I was sitting at the kitchen table -- on the back side of the house -- at the time. I still don't know what it struck, but I was "consumed" by a pinkish-yellowish light and practically knocked out of my chair by the instantaneous & extremely intense thunder.

    I've had this lightning-strike-very-near-to-me experience twice before, and hope to God that I never have it again. (I mean, my hair is gray enough already...)

    -- Nighteyes the Thunderstruck
    Last edited by Daniel Nighteyes; 04-19-2012 at 05:06 PM. Reason: More detail.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel
    I was "consumed" by a pinkish-yellowish light
    Check those mushrooms again. I don't think those were Morels.

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