Colorado and Wyoming rank at the top of the list for lightning-strike fatalities in the United States. It’s scary stuff. But dying from a bolt of electricity may not be nearly as frightening as surviving one.
What you need to know to stay safe.
The National Weather Service’s tagline—When thunder roars, go indoors!—nails the single best way to protect yourself. Don’t worry about calculating the storm’s distance from you; if you can hear thunder, you’re already within strike range. Below, a few more tips to consider.
• DO seek shelter in a hard-topped car if a safe building is unavailable.
• DON’T linger in garages, picnic shelters, covered patios, or tents. Such structures provide no protection.
• DO check the forecast and monitor the weather if you’re coaching (or attending) an athletic event. Coaches should postpone play and take shelter as soon as they see lightning or hear thunder.
• DO wait 30 minutes after the last roll of thunder before going back outside.
• DON’T stand near tall, isolated objects, like trees or telephone poles. Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area and can jump to your body.
• DO climb early to avoid common afternoon thunderstorms. Plan to be off of high peaks and below treeline by noon, especially June through September.
• DON’T be the tallest object around if you’re stuck outside during a storm. Avoid ridgelines, summits, cave entrances, or meadows. Better bets: uniform stands of trees and ravines.
• DO spread out if lightning is striking nearby so that one bolt won’t incapacitate your entire group.