What To Do In A Thunderstorm

In case of lightning or thunderstorms while on the river, you should take the following steps:

  1. Get off the water – A boat is the tallest object on the water making lightning strikes more likely. This is partially mitigated by the nearby bluffs but safety dictates getting off.
    • If you are fishing or swimming, get out of the water and move away from the edge.
  2. Seek shelter – If possible, get in a vehicle and avoid touching metal parts. Otherwise, take shelter near a dense group of trees or shrubs. Don’t stay near tall isolated objects like a single tree or in the open area of a sandbar. Tents do not provide protection from lightning.
  3. If no shelter is available, crouch down, feet close together with your head tucked down and your hands over your ears. Spread out, keeping people several yards apart (if a strike occurs, you want as few victims as possible). Minimize your contact with the ground.
    • Don’t lie down. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away. Crouching down is the best combination of being low and touching the ground as little as possible.
  4. Avoid objects that conduct electricity such as graphite and metal, (paddles, tent poles, camp stoves, power lines, umbrellas, etc).
  5. Monitor the storm – Lightning has been known to strike 10 miles away, although 3 – 5 miles is more common. Thunderstorms move swiftly. After you see lightning, count the seconds until you hear thunder. Every five seconds equals a mile in distance. If the time increases, the storm may be moving away.
    • If you see lightning but don’t hear thunder, the storm is probably 15 miles away.
    • If you hear thunder, the storm is within 10 miles – lightning strike distance.
    • If you see a blue glow around metal objects, smell ozone, hear buzzing, feel your scalp tingle or your hair stands on end – get to cover or crouch down. The movement of electricity, just before lightning strikes, creates these sensations.
  6. If a strike occurs, apply first aid to victims – Call 911 immediately. Don’t cause another casualty by exposing yourself to lightning. Wait until danger is past before helping victims. Remember: people don’t hold a charge, so touching them can’t hurt you; victims without a pulse can be revived with CPR; and, 80% of those struck by lightning survive.