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Old 06-14-2009   #1
Barney Fife's Avatar
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
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Posts: 174

You're caught on the river and a lightning storm occurs. Where is the safest place to your raft, with a metal frame, or on the bank under coverage?

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Old 06-14-2009   #2
st2eelpot's Avatar
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Typically a gamble, but in the raft if you're moving (don't eddie out) is likely better. The lightning needs to ionize a path before it can strike (why one's hair stands on end before being hit), so movement helps reduce this. Plus, the river is often the lowest place to be anyway. However, it should be noted that airplanes are still occasionally hit by lightning.

The ideal spot would be underneath the surface of the water (not directly beneath the lightning bolt if it hits the surface of the water) due to the 'skin effect' of lightning, but that isn't convenient.

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Old 06-14-2009   #3
Barney Fife's Avatar
Grand Junction, Colorado
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Thanks for confirming my intuition...stay in the lowest place and keep moving.
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Old 06-15-2009   #4
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at my house, Montana
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I disagree. I grew up around a lot of lakes and the rule was to get off the water as soon as lighting struck anywhere. Granted, it wasn't moving water and it wasn't inflatable boats. If the lighting is near, I still think the best place is off the water, in a low spot (not under something tall such as a tree or tall rock). That can be disconcerting as the low spot is often pretty exposed (think ditch).

The water may be the lowest place in general, but you are the tallest thing on the water! Now, it's also important to note that as a child we also weren't allowed to swim for a half hour after eating, so this may all be bunk!

No, I still operate by the lightening rule, but probably not as diligently as I should. It's a tough call I think, and either way the risks are pretty low (do you actually know anyone that's been hit by lighting?).
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 06-15-2009   #5
Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Be somewhere close to your metal frame.
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Old 06-15-2009   #6
Cisco, Utah
Paddling Since: Dawn
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 351
Being on a lake is bad cause you are highest thing on a flat plane, especially in a boat with a sail attatched to your lightning rod. Being in a canyon is a good thing. Lightning will strike high (except for the 1 in 100 times it strikes low...) Plus the thunder resounding off of the walls is really impressive! The safest place if you are really concerned about the current condition is up next to a cliff wall. Right next to the wall, the lightning can't resist the ground right above you. Mind you a lightning strike on top may want to travel down a crack in the rock as a natural path, so burrowing into a cranny may not be good. Look for an overhang.

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