Monday, July 30, 2007

Summer storm safety

Last summer Jane and I were out paddling on Jordan Lake and were caught in a typical North Carolina summer lightning storm. We were way out on the lake and could see the dark clouds looming. Furiously we paddled for the nearest shore to try and beat the lightning and thunder. Once we landed, it poured, and the lightning was quite spectacular across the lake.

Most of the two to three hours waiting for the storm to pass over was spent in some hilarity, discussing just what we should be doing to protect ourselves from a lightning strike. In hindsight, after a quick refresher once I got home, we got some things right, but a few key things wrong.

  • Get off the water as soon as possible. Don’t worry that you haven’t reached your campsite or got back to the put in. Lightning commonly strikes the tallest object – out on the water, that’s you, sitting in your kayak.
  • Get off the beach and head inland – lightning has a canny way of striking the land where beach and water meet.
  • Leave your paddle with your boat – quite a nifty wee lightning rod, that paddle.
  • When inland, head for the lowest sheltered area you can find.

  • Sheltering under a grove of trees is fine – just don’t stand under a lone tree as, once again, lightning commonly strikes the tallest object.
  • Crouch down and try to minimize your contact with the ground – keep your feet together and head down low.
  • Spread well out if you're in a group so if one of you gets hit, others can administer CPR. If you’re all huddling together the risk is you all get knocked unconscious.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after the storm’s over before heading back out.

If anyone else has some sound advice, I’d appreciate hearing about it!

PHOTO: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)


DaveO said...

Really good stuff Kristen. On Lake Superior the storms tend to brew up very fast and unless your checking behind you the first inkling you get is a cool breeze on the back of your neck. Get off the water is the prime thing. I joke with my Eurospoon paddle friends to keep that high profile stroke going with the carbon fiber paddle and I'll keep my stroke with my wooden Greenland stick in my lap ;)

Ron said...

Hey, I sorta like my carbon fiber lightning rod ..greeland paddle ...

Michael said...

You'd be amazed how well a wooden paddle conducts electricity when its wet! Quite a sensation to say the least... ;-)

Steve said...

The threat of lightning has concerned me for years. What do you do if you are out in a small sailboat - in my case, with two wooden masts - and cannot reach land? Anybody have experience and/or advice in the area?