PDA

View Full Version : Lightning in the backcountry



Iceman
2006-05-21, 23:16
Just had a nice thunderstorm pass nearby today, and it made me think again about how to deal with lightning while in the backcountry. Here are a few pointers I remember...

Move off ridges.
Stay low.
Ditch that metal umbrella shaft, hiking staff, or tent pole.
If on or near the water, get off.
If in a vehicle and it is struck, move your vehicle against something metal and grounded like a stop sign, before attempting to exit your vehicle.
Jump clear from the vehicle, do not have one foot in the vehicle, and one foot on the ground. (gzzzzzpf)
Stay clear of the larger trees or landmarks.
Pray you do not get zoinked.

Help me out here with anything you can recall...what to do, what not to do, how to rescue someone who has been struck....

KLeth
2006-05-22, 01:32
What to do: If caught in the open, make yourself as little as possible, but with as little ground contact as possible.

What not to: Don't stand in an open area, waving a metal pole in the air . . . (Another name for this is golf).
What not to: Do not stand too close to anything conductive, but without proper grounding.

Found this link: http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/ploutdoor.htm
Cars are pretty safe, not due to the insulation but since they function mostly as a faraday cage.

I've heard that campfires ect. can be a hazard since the smoke contains lots of ions that can conduct lightning, but I really don't know about this.

First aid for one struck by lightning is just normal CPR, but watch out for burns on the victims body. Burns might be hidden below clothes or shoewear.

txulrich
2006-05-22, 08:32
I heard this story once. Can't vouch for it's accuracy, but I wouldn't doubt it.

Lee Travino was playing in a tournament and it was delayed due to lightning. He pulled out his 1 iron and proceeded to run down the fairway to the clubhouse. When he was later asked about it, he responded, "Not even God can hit a 1 iron."

PKH
2006-05-22, 11:21
Scary stuff. I had a bolt come down within 200 feet of me a few years ago. I won't bother to describe the noise and sensation. I will say this: I will never look at a bald, exposed summit in the same way. Even on a clear day I am paranoid and always looking.

Since some members of this forum are interested in military matters: Back in '84 while on exercise just off the coast of Nova Scotia, my boat came up from deep to periscope depth, raised the comm mast, and promptly took several million volts worth of lightning bolt. Another noise and sensation I can't really decribe. It ended the trip for us and put us back in port for three weeks. I don't think there was piece of gear in the radio office that wasn't at least three quarters fried. I had the bad luck to be the comm tech (only one), so I spent far too many nights on board until we were fit to run again. In truth, things weren't really set right until the next refit.

My best advice about lightning is to avoid the stuff! :)

Cheers,

PKH

john pickett
2006-05-22, 16:07
I've heard you shouldn't run right up to a victim after a lightning strike. Apparently the charge takes a short while to dissipate through the ground. If you run in too quickly, you may be incapacitated by the energy still in the ground. Don't know if this has been verified or just outdoors myth. :confused:
John Pickett

Iceman
2006-05-22, 23:22
I'm shocked!

Another thing to think about is when you lay there in your hammock, tied to two TREES. :biggrin: Although you are not necessarily grounded yourself, you are a logical pathway for the voltage to travel, from one tree to the other, or the ground thru your behind...? Or do you feel that you are insulated enough from everthing...?

txulrich
2006-05-23, 08:53
I'm shocked!

Another thing to think about is when you lay there in your hammock, tied to two TREES. :biggrin: Although you are not necessarily grounded yourself, you are a logical pathway for the voltage to travel, from one tree to the other, or the ground thru your behind...? Or do you feel that you are insulated enough from everthing...?

That is not something I worry about. True, lightning is pretty powerful stuff and can do some unexpected things. However, there is enough insulating materials (webbing, rope and nylon) hanging between the trees and the path of least resistance is down the tree into ground.

So, when lightning is a possibility, I pitch my camp down the hill in a grouping of trees.

KLeth
2006-05-23, 10:32
However, there is enough insulating materials (webbing, rope and nylon) hanging between the trees and the path of least resistance is down the tree into ground.
Just remember that materials become better conductors when wet.

Just Jeff
2006-05-23, 11:41
Another thing to think about is when you lay there in your hammock, tied to two TREES. :biggrin:

Why do you hate bears? You don't think they like their (hanging) burritos cooked, too?

Two points. First, hammocks aren't the logical path for voltage to travel. It'll take the path of least resistance - right down the tree to the ground, rather than down the tree, across the hammocker, and down the other tree to the ground.

Second, that doesn't really matter. Lightning explodes trees. That's bad news whether you get shocked or not! And I imagine you'd get stunned pretty good just being that close to the bolt even if it didn't go directly through you.

But then, the same goes for tents - you don't set up a tent near the tallest trees during a lightning storm, do you?!

:biggrin:

Jim Henderson
2006-05-23, 15:33
But then, the same goes for tents - you don't set up a tent near the tallest trees during a lightning storm, do you?!


And besides, many tents use aluminum or carbon fiber poles. Just think how wonderful that is in a lightning storm. I would also get rid of any backpak with a frame if there was lightning nearby.

Lightning is pretty tricky and even though I love a good thunder storm while sitting in the comfort of my home, I will not camp out if I know there will be lightning and if the camp is in an exposed area.

A couple warning signs I read about are if your hair stands up or you have a strange garlicky taste in your mouth, you are about to be struck. Hunker down as small as you can with only your feet touching the ground and grab your ankles or cross your arms so you don't make any bigger target or touch the ground with them.

Standing near a tree is bad since even if the lightning doesn't hit you, there is still enough of an electrical charge around it that you will have some current pass thru you. That is why you hear about large groups of golfers and cubscouts standing around a tree getting zapped even if they are not near the trunk.

Just my opinions and from reading.

Jim Henderson

Just Jeff
2006-05-23, 17:03
...Hunker down...and grab your ankles...

Heh - bend over and grap your ankles....that's fitting.

Back in school, we had a saying - BOHICA - usually around finals time regarding the Dean.

Two points to anyone who knows what BOHICA stands for...

Jim Henderson
2006-05-23, 17:18
Bend Over, Here It Comes Again.

Now, do you know what BOFO means? It is a favorite of say, Used Car Sales Men. and somewhat ruder than BOHICA.

Probably not to be posted in it's full form.

And grabbing your ankles was a serious recommendation, possibly for both reasons when stuck in a Lightning storm.

Jim Henderson

TerribleTom
2006-05-23, 19:24
Lightning avoidance has never been a big concern of mine. Not that I don't consider it a risk, but most of my experience with lightning while on the trail has been in wooded areas where most of the trees were of similar height. We generally just hunkered down where ever we could (under a conifer always seemed good) and waited for the t-storms to pass.

I certainly have never even considered the 'running into a stop sign before exiting the vehicle' plan.

Iceman
2006-05-23, 23:34
Thanks to all. I am readying for the annual Memorial weekend pilgrimage to our favorite mountaintop campout at 4500' and every year we encounter a few thunderstorms. They still freak me out a bit. Fun, but scary at the same time. You know, like the first time you experimented with gun powder, gasoline, the girl down the street, propane or electricity. Fun. Scary.

dropkick
2006-05-23, 23:58
Fun, but scary at the same time. You know, like the first time you experimented with gun powder, gasoline, the girl down the street, propane or electricity. Fun. Scary.
Unlike Iceman I think most of us didn't experiment with all of them at the same time though. :biggrin:

john pickett
2006-05-24, 17:08
"Unlike Iceman I think most of us didn't experiment with all of them at the same time though"

Iceman, I think you could make some serious money writing about That experiment. I'm guessing Readers Digest, National Geographic, or National Enquirer. Like they say, enquiring minds Do want to know. :biggrin:
John Pickett

SowthEfrikan
2006-05-24, 20:46
That's soooo funny. I have another story to share, this one is true. Villagers in Africa were in dire need of a spot of rain, so they summoned their local sangoma - witch doctor - to conjure it up. The skies are darkening but no problem, this chap climbs up on the roof of a tin shanty. Kapow! The poor man is thrown to the ground, and the terrified villagers run away. He lay there for hours because everyone was afraid to come to his aid. Yep, I miss home.

Iceman
2006-05-24, 23:21
Iceman, I think you could make some serious money writing about That experiment. I'm guessing Readers Digest, National Geographic, or National Enquirer. Like they say, enquiring minds Do want to know. :biggrin:
John Pickett

Dropkick is right again! Maybe I misspoke/miswrote. I didn't experiment with all of these at the same time. But now that you mention it, it does sound sort of fun and scary. :biggrin: Besides, she wasn't much to write home about...(beggers can't be choosers...) A "two bagger".

deadeye
2006-05-26, 21:06
[QUOTE=txulrich] However, there is enough insulating materials (webbing, rope and nylon) hanging between the trees and the path of least resistance is down the tree into ground.

I'll agree that hanging between two trees is probably no more or less dangerous than sleeping on the ground between the trees, but don't think any amount of insulation will help you - a mile or two of air is a fantastic insulator, but didn't stop the lightning, did it?!

dropkick
2006-05-27, 06:06
There are many different theories but no one actually knows how lightning is created.

An average bolt of normal lightning carries a current of 30 to 50 kA, (top 120kA) and has enough of a charge to light a 100 watt bulb for 2 months.

Positive lightning is less than 5% of all lightning. Positive lightning bolts are normally 6x to 10x stronger than negative bolts, last about 10x longer, and can strike miles from the clouds (bolt from the blue).

An average bolt of positive lightning carries a current of 300 kA and has enough energy to light a 100 watt bulb for 95 years.

Lightning strikes the earth 100 times every second, and bolt temperatures can be 5x hotter than the surface of the sun.

Dangers from a lightning strike listed from most to least dangerous:
1) Ground strike nearby causing a difference of potential in the ground - electricity travels through the person from the ground.
2) Bounce hits from objects struck - lightning prefers person over a nearby object that has more resistance, and strikes them en route to ground.
3) Direct strike - In a direct hit if their skin resistance is high enough, much of the current can flash around the skin or clothing to the ground.
4) EMP
They don't even list shrapnel (exploding trees)

Although commonly associated with thunderstorms, lightning strikes can occur on any day, even in the absence of clouds.

Odds of a person in the USA being struck by lightning in his lifetime - 1:280,000

Distance from the strike - count the seconds between the flash and the thunder and divide by 5 for miles, 3 for kilometers.