One of the most common statements heard about Colorado weather is, "if you don't like the weather just wait 20 minutes and it will change." Although most times it's said in jest there is a warning embedded in those 14 words. Summer storms come up quickly and without much warning and with the number of outdoor enthusiasts here in Colorado, the danger from lightning strikes should be heeded and knowledge and preparation are the key to a more successful outcome.
According to the National Weather Service the best way to avoid injury or death by lightning is to follow the 30/30 rule. "When lightning is seen count the time until thunder is heard. If it is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter immediately and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard." People go back outside too soon according to experts assuming the risk of strike has passed.
One of the golden rules to hiking the Fourteeners during the summer months is to start early and be off the mountain before the afternoon storms hit or at least be below tree line. But with the speed at which some of our summer storms hit the inevitable can happen and here are some tips to follow according to the National Lightning Safety Institute:
- If your skin tingles or your hair stands on the end, a lightning strike may be about to happen. Crouch down on the balls of your feet with your feet close together. Keep your hands on your knees and lower your head. Get as low as possible without touching your hands or knees to the ground. DO NOT LIE DOWN!
- If you are swimming, fishing or boating and there are clouds, dark skies and distant rumbles of thunder or flashes of lightning, get to land immediately and seek shelter.
- If you are in a boat and cannot get to shore, crouch down in the middle of the boat. Go below if possible.
- If you are on land, find a low spot away from trees, metal fences, pipes, tall or long objects.
- If you are in the woods, look for an area of shorter trees. Crouch down away from tree trunks.
Colorado is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts from the golfer to hikers but the hidden danger from lightning is ever looming and should be taken seriously. A basic knowledge and understanding of Colorado's weather is a must to enjoy the outdoors while maintaining a level of preparedness for safety.