Practical Summit Lightning Safety

2006-07-11 13:41:39.000 – Christy Schultz,  Summit Intern

Building thunderstorm over Mount Madison

Here’s a question for all readers: If you’re on the summit of Mount Washington and hear thunder, do you
a) tell your kids to hurry to the summit for a picture before the lightning strikes again?
b) open up your umbrella?
c) start out on a hike along the ridgelines above treeline?
d) seek shelter inside a building or vehicle, or if hiking, get into a crouched position?

If you answered letter ‘d’ you are correct! Sadly enough, we witnessed all of the above answers yesterday during the thunderstorms that rolled over the summit during the mid-afternoon hours. Conditions on the summit can be very dangerous during electrical storms and everyone visiting should take these risks seriously. Every year the Sherman Adams building housing the state park and Observatory, as well as the surrounding buildings and radio towers, get struck by lightning several times.

This morning another line of thunderstorms moved through the region, causing the Observatory to go through a ‘lightning shutdown procedure’ where all computers and sensitive equipment is turned off. We were able to see several lightning bolts from the windows of the weather room. Luckily, the passengers of the cog train coming up during the storm showed some common sense and came directly inside after unloading from the train. No one was seen doing answers ‘a’ through ‘c’ during this particular thunder storm.

So if you’re outside and hear thunder, remember one of the National Weather Service’s slogans, “When thunder roars, go indoors!” Check out these websites for more information about what to do during an electrical storm:Lightning SafetyKid’s Lightning SafetyOutdoor Lightning Safety


Christy Schultz,  Summit Intern

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