What to do if caught outside in a thunderstorm without shelter

Some of these tips you may already know, but all will help you stay safe in case you're stuck in a lightning storm.

KUSA - It’s common sense to seek shelter in a lightning storm. Or at least it’s advice that’s drilled into you, over and over.

But what if the worst occurs, and you’re outside and nowhere near a building for protection? The National Weather Service has some tips to improve your survival.

Most important is to use your car if you can. If you’re camping, hear a thunderstorm rumbling and have the choice between a tent, an open-sided picnic shelter and your car, take cover in your car! The other two won’t protect you.

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If you don’t have access to a car there a few things you can do to better your chances:

  • Stay away from big, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you’re in a forest, stay close to a lower stand of trees.
  • Keep out of open fields and off of the top of a hill or ridge top.
  • Avoid water, wet items and metal objects. While the two don’t attract lightning, water and metal are superb conductors of electricity and will carry a lightning’s current a long distance easily.
  • Camping in an open area? Move your tent to a low area such as a ravine or valley. A tent alone won't keep you safe.
  • Out with a group? Spread out to prevent the current from jumping from person to person.

But these tips are only ways to marginally lessen the threat, and won’t truly keep you safe, it continued.

Instead take the approach that forewarned is forearmed, and do all that you can to avoid being stuck outside in a thunderstorm with no shelter in the first place:

  • Before you visit a place, check the weather forecast.
  • Know the weather patterns of where you’ll be going as well. For example, mountainous areas typically have thunderstorms develop in early afternoon, so hike in the morning and be off the mountain by noon.
  • Carry a portable NOAA Weather radio or stay current with commercial radio, the internet or your smart phone.
  • Have a lightning safety plan if you’re going out in a group.
  • And if there’s a high chance of thunderstorms, just don’t take any risks and stay inside.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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