When Thunder Roars

2013-05-09 18:52:47.000 – Michael Kyle,  Summit Intern


With spring time upon us the weather in the White Mountain Region is getting nicer. Hikers are making their way back on the trails that have been covered by snow all winter. Don’t let the nice weather deceive you. Spring and summer can have dangerous weather that hikers and any other participants of outdoor activities should monitor. Thunderstorms, especially severe can have a variety of threats that endanger anyone outside during the storm. These threats include hail, lightning, flash flooding, strong winds, and tornadoes. Each of these threats causes multiple injuries and deaths every year. On a 30 year average the top three causes of weather related fatalities are flash flooding, tornadoes, and lightning. The safest and smartest thing to do during a thunderstorm is to seek shelter in an enclosed building, away from any windows that could break if hit by debris kicked up during the storm.

For hikers and anyone else in the backcountry seeking shelter in a build mostly likely is not an option. When it comes to lightning anyone the backcountry is extremely exposed, and is left in a dangerous position if caught in a thunderstorm. That is why it is important that during this time of year you check the higher summits weather reports before leaving your house. If the report is showing a chance of thunderstorms, it might be best to re-plan your day’s activities for one with better weather.

If the weather does look good, here are some addition tips to consider while hiking. If you’re hiking to peaks above tree line you should plan to summit before 1:00PM. This will reduce your chance of expose to thunderstorms during the peak hours of thunderstorm development which normally is later in the afternoon. While on your hike you should take some time every once in a while and look at the sky to see if the clouds are growing in size (vertically and horizontally), or if they are darkening in color. That might be signs of a developing pop-up thunderstorm. Lastly, if you’re on the trail and hear thunder or see lightning, TURN BACK IMMEDIATELY! Lightning can strike up to ten miles away from a storm, so if you can’t hear thunder you are still within striking distance of that storm.

For more great lightning safety tips on outdoor venues, go to the Mount Washington Observatory’s on the Mount Washington Observatory’s website. There you will find more great tips that will help keep you safe during your backcountry adventures this spring. The spring and summer seasons are beautiful times of the year in the White Mountain Range, so make sure you get out and enjoy them before winter’s return. Just do so in safely and responsibly manner.


Michael Kyle,  Summit Intern

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