Since being struck by lightning on my ear, via a corded phone back in the 1970s, I have had a bit of a morbid interest in lightning.
I also have a very healthy respect (fear?) of it and despite researching all the things you should and shouldn’t do, Geoff and I have spent quite a few nights in the States, just lying motionless in the tent, holding hands and hardly daring to breathe, while a storm raged overhead, not to mention the afternoon we were circling a very large lake in a steep sided cym, and all we could do was split up, keep moving and pray…apparently, statistically, lightning finds it harder to connect with a moving target, but that afternoon is quite possibly the most frightened I have ever been in the mountains.
So when I was still heavily involved in MR, these experiences seemed to qualify me to pull out a lecture from time to time on lightning safety, and with the recent number of thunderstorm warnings we seem to be getting in the UK, I thought this might also be of interest to fellow walkers (or anyone in fact).
To this end then, I have uploaded some of the old Power Point slides from my lecture.
Obviously the subject of lightning is huge and I can only touch on it here, and of course I am not the world’s definitive expert by any means, but there are some excellent publications that I used to help me in my research. The main one was ‘Lightning Strikes – Staying Safe Under Stormy Skies’, by Jeff Renner, and there is also some good information in Eric Langmuir’s ‘Mountaincraft and Leadership’.
A few other things are worth adding:
- Lightning safety is a statistical thing, not an absolute science, ie: it’s about areas and situations where you are statisctically less likey to be struck
- Never forget about the other dangers which often accompany storms, such as high winds and flooding
- The idea about ‘getting rid of’ ice axes and other metal items in a storm is always a constant source of debate, with scientists polarised on both sides of the fence as it were. Whatever you decide to do in that situation however, never forget that these items might be essential to your safe travel in the hills anyway, so don’t actually get rid of them, but rather get away from them, you might well need them later!