Caught in a Storm
Many people will be visiting lake or ocean beaches, camping, hiking, and participating in other outdoor activities during the summer months. As you plan for outdoor recreation activities, remember to keep lightning safety in mind. As of July 2008, there have been 23 lightning fatalities in the U.S. this year, and all of them have occurred outdoors.
Viewer Tip: Always check your local weather forecast before heading outside, and plan ahead. If you do not think outdoor activities will be safe, consider rescheduling for another day. If you do find yourself outside during a thunderstorm, these tips can help you stay safe in various scenarios:
- Camping: The best place to seek shelter from a thunderstorm is in your car. Tents and picnic shelters will keep you dry, but offer no protection from a lightning strike.
- Lake or Ocean Beaches: Again, head for your car. Beach picnic shacks and pavilions will not offer protection from lightning.
- On the Water: Most lightning injuries and deaths happen on small boats that do not have a cabin. If you are on a small boat and lightning is imminent, anchor the boat and get as low as possible. Larger boats with cabins (especially those with lightning protection systems), are relatively safe – stay inside the cabin and avoid touching metal objects.
- No Shelter Available: If you absolutely cannot find shelter during a thunderstorm, you should squat out in the open in a low-lying area on the tips of your toes in a “crouch” position, away from other members of your group. Do not lie down. Stay away from tall, isolated objects (such as lone trees), and avoid contact with fences, poles, and backpacks, which can conduct electricity.
(Sources: National Weather Service. “2008 Lightning Fatalities.” http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/fatalities.htm; “Lightning Risk Reduction Outdoors.” http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.htm#unsafeb)