Lightning storm

Learn what to do in the event of storm and how to tell how close one is

The odds of getting hit by lightning at your campsite far exceed the chances of being attacked by a bear. It’s usually not the actual bolt of lightning that does the damage. The trouble comes when a strike hits a nearby tree, and the charge heads down through the roots and then travels up underneath your tent, and literally burns you while you lie curled up inside your sleeping bag. First-aid manuals say that to avoid injury during a storm, you should leave your tent and go to a low, protected area. But who wants to leave a cozy dry tent during a thunderstorm? Instead, when the lightning storm begins, sit on a pack or squat on your sleeping mat with both feet close together. If a strike occurs, the electrical charge will be further away from your heart than if you’re lying down. Stay this way until the storm has passed. And keep in mind that when you think the storm has passed, it hasn’t. Wait another 15 minutes or so before you lie back down.

How do I know when a storm will hit?

Count the number of seconds (one Mississippi...two Mississippi...three Mississippi...) between the flash of lightning and the thunder. Then divide by three. You now have the approximate distance in kilometres. (Sound travels approximately a third of a kilometre per second.)

4 forecasts to trust

  • Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the 
morning, sailors take warning.

  • Campfire smoke 
descends, our 
nice weather ends.

  • When leaves show their undersides, 
be very sure that rain betides.

  • If birds fly low, 
expect rain and 
a blow.