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When the thunder roars: How to keep safe during a lightning storm

Posted at 2:22 PM, Aug 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-09 16:22:26-04

One of the most talked about dangers of thunderstorms is lightning.

With thousands of outdoor adventurers hitting the trails this summer, it’s always good to have a plan when a storm approaches.

“It’s important that if you do hear thunder (to) seek shelter,”  said Megan Syner, Emergency Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls. “That’s one of the biggest problems in the summertime, we like to be out and hiking, so if you’re out there and you see building clouds and they’re starting to get darker, that’s your first indication that there could be a thunderstorm approaching. It’s important to already have a plan in place of where your safe shelter would be. If you’re out somewhere, maybe that’s in your vehicle at the trailhead that would probably be the safest.”  

Lightning can also be a danger to hikers even when the sun is out.

“You can have a thunderstorm over a particular location and there may or may not be heavy rain associated with that, but you can still have a lightning strike 10 – 15 miles away from where that rain is falling under that storm,” added Syner.

Syner said a good way to think of safety when enjoying the outdoors is a simple reminder: “When the thunder roars, go indoors.”

According to the National Weather Service, lightning caused an average of 44 deaths per year from 1988 to 2017. In 2017, lightning was the 8th most weather-related cause of death in the U.S.

Click here for more tips and resources about lightning safety.