Lightning on the river - Mountain Buzz

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Old 06-01-2009   #1
Arvada, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Lightning on the river

So you're boatn' down clear creek by Lawson and the lightning is this any different than boating down Shoshone or the Arkansas...should you just get out, stay in, get in a car? Has anyone heard of a kayaker getting struck by lightning while on the river?
I'm thinking if the river is real wide and you are the tallest point on the river, you're in danger? If it is narrow like clear creek, the trees are the tallest near you and may take the hit?

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Old 06-01-2009   #2
Join Date: Feb 2004
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I think* that on any river, you are in the lowest possible spot (besides SquirtBoating) and you have the advantage.

However, metal accouterments like paddles and oars are a disadvantage.

On Clear Creek you have the advantage of infrastructure higher than you.

During adverse weather, any boater has the advantage of whispering to themselves, "We're the lowest point out here."

Weather has the advantage of indifference.

Keep your head down and move along, there's nothing to see here.

*What follows is conjecture
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Old 06-01-2009   #3
no tengo
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Baytopia, Colorado
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If you are in a plastic kayak or rubber raft you have very little danger of being struck because you are sitting on a non-conducting surface so charge will not accumulate beneath you.

If you sit inside a metal car you are even more safe since charge cannot exist inside a conductor (it will only move on the surface).

worst place is under a tree or on a mountain top.
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Old 06-01-2009   #4
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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Don't worry about it!

The insulation of the boat is probably negated by everything being wet, think toaster in the bathtub!

Anything is possible but I do not worry about it. You are in the lowest point around so everything is higher/taller then you. So I find it very unlikely you will get hit. Now we are not talking about boating on a lake, or a stream in Texas but at the bottom of a mountain river valley in Colorado.
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Old 06-01-2009   #5
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What about an aluminum raft frame???
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Old 06-01-2009   #6
Thronton, Colorado
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I used to work for a company in the lightning prevention industry (yes, prevention). I've seen some amazing things lightning can do. Just because something isn't ypically a conductor doesn't mean lightning can't do some damage to it. Moisture will always play a part in the conductivity of things, like trees for example. It's the moisture in the tree that makes it a good conductor, not the wood.

That being said, mania is correct. Being inside of a car is a very safe place if you can get to one, but chances are, you can't (unless you just put in or are close to a take-out).

Definitely don't get out and park yourself under a tree to wait it out. I'd think you are better off in the river, even soaking wet, than under a tree. The other thing trees have is sharp points that create "streamers", which are little streams of electricity that join the "leaders" from the clouds to create a strike. Without sharp points, it's a lot less likely that a strike will occur.

I'd say your biggest danger on the river surrounded by taller ojects is the ground currents. If a tree near the bank were to get hit and the charge travelled through the water and you happened to be touching it, you could get a jolt. Depending on how close and how much water, it would disipate pretty quickly I would think.

If you are on a flat river (float trip kind of thing), you're probably more like a boat on a lake. In that case, I would think you might want to try to find a nice open area, void of any trees or other tall objects. Get to a nice low point (dried up ditch or something) and wait it out from there.

I guess it's a tricky question, because in some cases, there's probably not a whole lot you can do about it. It's really somewhat a game of chance at that point, so like Snowhere said, don't worry about it, at least not until you can do something about it.
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