When we camped at Mammoth Cave National Park, we encountered a lightning storm. We were cooking dinner at the time and we felt the tension in the air and heard the thunder from afar. We knew a storm was coming so we tried to hurry up before the inevitable, rain. We were in a heavily forest campground with a picnic table and benches made of stone. Soon we could see flashes of lightning as well then the rain came. I stayed out to finish cooking while everyone went inside of the tent. When I finished cooking, I brought the food inside and we ate inside of the tent.
We don’t get much lightning out in California. But I knew that one shall not hide under a tree in a lightning storm. But here we were, in a forest where trees were everywhere. I looked around the trees near the tent and noticed they weren’t the tallest around. That made us feel safer; at least we shouldn’t be the most prominent target. I also knew that staying inside our van could be safer and where we would go if we were in an open area with no other places to go. Lightning can strike anywhere; no place is absolutely safe but we always try to minimize our chances.
The next morning I spoke with a ranger about lightning safety. He mentioned that to stay at least a few feet from any tree trunks as lightning can travel down the tree and spread out. I read a book once about some birds were smart enough to lift one leg off a wire when the wire was electrified to avoid being shocked. I wonder if that would be true if we were to stand with one leg to avoid the current on the ground. I did some research without lucks but someone indicated to keep feet closer together to limit the voltage difference between the two feet.
A few months later we were hiking in Glacier National Park (see right), Montana when we encountered an approaching lightning storm. This time we were in an open area with no trees around us. There was no place to hide. I picked up Kadia and put her in the backpack and we started running away from the storm toward the Visitor Center we started the hike from. It took us 90 minutes to hike up toward the mountain but only about 15 minutes to get down, in the rain too. We got inside the building and waited until the storm passed. I thought once in a building, we would be safe but later on I learned that was not true; we should still stay away from water sources, telephones, any wiring and plumbing, etc. Luckily nothing happened that day.
Lightning is spectacular but deadly; take it seriously. Stay away and stay alive. Don’t become a statistic.