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Lightning Strikes: Debunking Common Myths and Updated Safety Practices for Hikers

Lightning Strikes: Debunking Common Myths and Updated Safety Practices for Hikers

Traditional lightning safety practices, including the "lightning position," are outdated and ineffective. New research challenges common misconceptions about lightning safety, urging hikers to update their knowledge for better protection. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. The Lightning Position Isn't Effective: Experts debunk the myth that assuming the "lightning position" offers significant protection. Running for lower ground or seeking uniform tree cover is more advisable.

  2. Distance Doesn't Ensure Safety: Being up to 10 miles away from a storm doesn't guarantee safety. The first lightning flash can be the most dangerous, emphasizing the need for proactive protective measures.

  3. Standing under Trees Can Be Risky: Contrary to popular belief, standing under a tree during a storm can increase the risk of lightning-related injuries due to ground strikes. Seek shelter under shorter, uniformly tall trees instead.

  4. Metal Doesn't Attract Lightning: Lightning is attracted to tall, isolated, or pointed structures, regardless of material. However, metal can conduct electricity more efficiently, posing risks to nearby objects like tents.

  5. Crouching vs. Lying Down: While crouching reduces the risk of being the tallest point, lying down increases the likelihood of ground strikes and dangerous current paths through the body.

  6. Tent Safety: Tents offer no protection from lightning. Choosing a safe location for pitching tents, such as below treeline and away from tall ridges, is crucial.

  7. Avoiding Caves: Seeking shelter in caves during storms can be hazardous, as lightning can use the body as a shortcut to the ground.

  8. Respect Weather Forecasts: Modern forecasting is accurate, and ignoring forecasts can lead to avoidable risks. Planning hikes based on weather predictions for specific trails is essential.

Bonus Lightning Fun Facts: Lightning, while dangerous, is also fascinating. It always produces thunder, different types of lightning have distinct sounds, and a single bolt can stretch across vast distances, among other intriguing phenomena.

Read the Full Article: "Everything Hikers Know About Lightning Safety is Wrong," by Corey Buhay,, April 11, 2024.

Image by Deniece Platt from Pixabay


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