How To Stay Safe From Lightning While Hiking

We’ve entered the heart of summer which means hiking trails across the Adirondacks and Catskills will be filled with hikers, especially on the weekends.

mountain

My friends and I coming down Algonquin Peak on a nice day back in June

The summer months are also our most active for thunderstorms and severe weather. In fact we just passed the 25th anniversary of the 1995 derecho that moved through the Adirondacks that killed five, injured eleven, and stranded dozens of campers and hikers. For more on that click here.

Before heading into the backcountry, even if it’s just for a short day hike, check the weather!

Thunderstorms this time of the year typically occur during the afternoon. If you’re determined to hike, even if there are storms in the forecast, it’s best to start early and end early before storms are able to get going.

If thunderstorms are in the forecast the majority of the day, you’re probably better off holding off for a better weather day.

Courtesy of NOAA.gov

If you’re already on the trail when a storm starts rolling in, especially if you’re up in elevation, your best bet is to head down and seek shelter. Most lightning strikes will strike the highest elevation on the mountain or nearby ridges.

If you’re hiking in a large group, spread out. If lightning strikes the group, everyone could be knocked unconscious with no one left to provide medical attention.

Once you’re below the treeline, avoid open spaces and leaning against large trees. Outside of a real shelter the best spot to be is in an area of dense, small to medium sized trees crouched down on the balls of your feet.

Weekend Forecast 7/18-7/19

While the threat for thunderstorms this weekend is quite low, it’ll be very hot and humid Saturday and Sunday. If you’re hitting the trails, be sure to have plenty of water and pack a water filtration device if you’re planning on a longer hike or staying overnight.