Outdoorsmen must be aware of lightning

Published 9:52 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Sports Columnist
Have you ever been out on the lake when the fish were really biting and a lightning-producing thunderstorm came up? It's hard to pull up anchor and head for shore when you have hungry fish under the boat, but that's exactly what we should do.
Hurricanes and tornadoes get more media attention, but the truth is, lightning causes more deaths than any weather related cause. Each year about 300 people die from lightning strikes and many more are injured. Most of the victims are either working outside or enjoying outdoor recreation.
The awesome power of a bolt of lightning is hard to visualize. It is hot enough to heat the air it passes through to 30,000 degrees Celsius in a split second. As the lightning passes through the air, it sends out shock waves which we hear as thunder. It is possible to determine how far the lightning strike is from the observer by counting the number of seconds between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five, and you have the distance in miles you are from the strike.
A person is injured from lightning either by a direct hit or a "splash" strike. Those suffering from a direct hit are usually outside and often have metal objects such as firearms, knives and backpacks on their person. Splash injuries occur when lightning hits a nearby object and jumps to a victim. When lightning hits the earth, waves of electrical currents is dispersed in all directions. Hikers, campers, and other outdoor persons can be seriously injured from lightning's blast effect.
Although it is impossible to lightning proof one's self, there are precautions that will greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim.
Get rid of any metal such as firearms, backpacks, knives, etc.;
Seek a building or automobile to take refuge;
Should you be caught in the woods during lightning activity, seek a group of low trees of uniform height to get under;
If caught out in the open, avoid lone trees and other tall objects. Lie down in a ditch or other depression;
If you get the sensation that your hair is standing on end, get down immediately;
Stay out of tents that have metal poles;
If several people are in your party, spread out if possible to minimize the splash effect of lightning;
Take a CPR course to learn how to administer first aid to a lightning victim.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox