Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thunderstorms and camping in mountainous areas: Do you know your lightning safety guidelines?

The summer camping season brings a lot of campers and RVers into the outdoors and especially to cool higher altitude destinations as the heat increases.

But you may have read recently in the news that two people were killed and others injured in the Rocky Mountain National Park from lightning strikes in areas above the treeline that are prone to afternoon thunderstorms.

If you plan to travel into mountainous areas this season, here are some tips and precautions you can take to insure your safety:

KNOW THE WEATHER: Bright summer days can turn stormy quickly, with lightning, wind, and even hail. Ask rangers about the weather patterns of the area you are visiting.

GET YOUR OUTSIDE ADVENTURES IN EARLY: Start your hike early in the day so you can return by noon. Hike to below treeline or to safe shelter before a storm strikes.

STAY ALERT: If you hear thunder or see lightning it is close enough to strike you. At a high altitude, when skies look threatening, a thunderstorm can develop right overhead.

IF YOU ARE ABOVE TREELINE: If a storm threatens, get inside your vehicle immediately, do not lean against the doors, and wait at least 30 minutes after a storm passes overhead. If you are away from a vehicle, move away from summits, isolated trees and rocks.

BELOW TREELINE: If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. Stay away from tall, isolated trees or any tall objects.

WHAT SHELTERS ARE SAFE: Tents, trees, small caves, and picnic shelters are not safe. A vehicle or a larger, enclosed building are. Avoid water and any metal.

You can get more information on lightning safety from the National Weather Service.