COLORADO, USA — Colorado's severe weather season is here.
We saw it over the past couple weeks when the Denver metro area was hit with hail, lightning and rain.
The severe weather can be dangerous, even deadly, for summer hikes.
Experts say that's why it's extremely important to check the forecast — very carefully — before heading out on hikes during severe weather season.
"You want to check your local news and the National Atmospheric Association weather station, which is also very useful for pinpointing weather for different mountains and different mountain trails," said Art Hogling, the director of the Colorado Mountain Club's hiking safety school.
Carefully checking the forecast will help make sure you prevent yourself from getting caught in any storms.
It's also important to start early.
"You want to be very careful and get off of the summits of mountains by 12 p.m. each day. There's a thing mountaineers do [called] the 'alpine start' where they get going early in the morning, sometimes before sun up, and they hike until noon and wherever they are, then they need to turn around," Hogling said.
When you're doing the more difficult hikes, make sure you pack the essentials. The Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) recommends carrying the "10 essentials."
- Extra clothing
- Extra food
- First-Aid supplies
Hogling said those items will help you survive if you get stuck in a storm overnight, or for a long period of time as you wait to be rescued.
If you see lightning, ditch your metal hiking poles for the time being and seek shelter.
"If you do get trapped in a lightning storm, you want to try to move into trees," he said. "That's a good place to be, no place is totally safe, but a forest like that where you're not the tallest thing around is a good safe place to be — a safer place to be."
Avoid single trees, caves or bodies of water like lakes, streams and riverbanks. If you can't find safe shelter, get in the "lightning position."
"You want to squat down, if you have a pack you want to sit on it, if you have a foam pad in your pack — you can put that on top. It gives you extra insulation. So you basically want to get low and as much insulation as you can," Hogling said.
Keep your feet and heels together, close your eyes and cover your ears while in this position.
If you're hiking in large groups, Hogling said people should spread out at least 50 feet apart.
He added, "If somebody is harmed by lightning, the other people might survive to help them or give them aid if necessary."
Another thing to think about is your clothes.
While you want to take extra layers like a rain jacket, rain pants and a warm coat, it's important to pay attention to the clothes you already have on your back.
Hogling recommended anything made from synthetic or wool, which can retain heat when wet and dry quickly.
Stay away from jeans.
"They are actually very deadly," Hogling said. "Some of the search and rescue groups called denim and blue jeans death cloth because it gets wet and you start shaking and freezing, and you can develop hypothermia from it."
HIKING SAFETY EDUCATION
We know, this might be a lot to take in for those of you who are just starting out or those of you who need a refresher. So if you'd like more information, the Colorado Mountain Club offers introduction to hiking safety classes during the summer hiking season.
The next one is Wednesday, July 17. The classes cost $15 for non-members.
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