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What do you do when caught in a thunderstorm mid river?

  • Climb a nearby cottonwood tree to get a good view of the action.

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  • Sit on shore and wait for the storm to pass while thinking about the warm clothes you left in the ca

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Discussion Starter #1
What's the safest plan when the clouds turn black, the lightning starts crashing and you're 3 miles from the take out? Conventional wisdom would suggest that if you are on a river, you are at the lowest local elevation, keep paddling. However, didn't your dad tell you to get the heck out of the water when lighting is flashing?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
What brought this to mind was a substantial hail storm mid float. Thankfully, with a hemet, pfd, skirt and plastic boat I was well protected from the icy projectiles. When the storm hit, we pulled off to shore and started getting chilly, but returned to the river to warm up.

It's like when my GF asks if I'm still going boating when it's shitty out. I always tell her "It's not like the rain is gonna get me any wetter." I still don't think she gets it. :roll:
 

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I've heard/used the reasoning of "lowest spot in the valley". Is there any merit to this? What about if you are in a raft with metal oar frame? I've done this in both my kayak and raft. Was stuck in a nasty one a week or two ago and we hauled ass to the take out for an hour or more much to the girls' dismay who were with us. I didn't feel like sitting under a tree, or standing in a field on the river bank were any better options. Any weather geeks out there with an answer?
 

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I have a good friend who guides for a rafting comp in Ft. Collins, - he told me they never take out for storms - especially thunderstorms with lightning. In the river, you are at the very lowest point in the whole canyon wich 99.99999999999% of the time = safest spot too. Other than flash flood danger, you should be absolutely fine. The only safer spot is in your car. Cars act like metal cages and if you know anything about electricity or engineering, the charge goes to the outside of a metallic object, so it goes right around you, through the frame, and down through your tires. Lots of people have been struck by lightning in their cars and except for big burn marks in their paint, are just fine. I would not camp out under a tree for cover though.
 

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Barbie

Take a #10 Dutch oven. 12 briguets on the bottom, 8 on top = 350 degrees.
Add one for each additional 25 degrees needed. Add 1 brisket and a small bottle of Barbie sauce. YUMMY. If you store the dutch in the bow of your yak
you can do endo's till the cows come home!
 

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If it's hailing, I've been known to flip the raft over in the eddie and climb under it. If not, everyone stays much warmer, paddling hard to the take out.
 

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I had lightening hit a hill 200 yards away (we saw the tree destroyed) once when I was on the side of the river. People in the water felt the zap--the kids ran for their moms. Lots of fish jumped. I was standing on the bank in rubber river shoes and felt nothing.

Based on what I've heard about lightening, here are my recommendations:
1) If you have a steep hill next to you, you are safe. The lightening will hit the hill. But, a 50 foot hill 1/4 mile away isn't good enough.
2) Lightening likes to go down trees. The thing to remember is that lightening spreads out from a tree hit about 20 feet.
3) Lightening really likes metal. A raft frame in an open area would make me real nervous.
4) A plastic boat or rubber raft probably provides extra protection when lightening hits a nearby hill. You won't get zapped as much as a swimmer.

So you are generally right that most rivers are in a steep valley and that will keep you safe. But, there are spots where the valley/river spreads out and there will be danger. The Westwater paddle out and sections of Pumphouse are probably examples.
 

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Sometimes shitty weather can improve a run,once on the Idaho spgs. run ,normally II-III,we experienced a torrential downpour with hail and strong wind ,the caps on waves were getting blown sideways and smack you upside the head ,lightening was cracking all around, wind made it more difficult to control the boat.It was at 1100 to begin with and rose during the run,a beginner run became exciting 3+ with very limited visibility.
 

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I got caught in a storm once with hail and tons of lightening. Got off the river and sat in a concrete culvert while the storm raged. The first wave that came down the culvert was rather small and gave us time to realize we were in a storm drain before our gear and us had washed back in the river. Boneheads for sure. If you get out, check where you are.

greg
 

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I have been in a few scenarios when climbing when the hair starts sticking up, the caribiners start buzzing, and you know its coming... is it going to be the same on the river, I imagine so? If so you'll probably have plenty of warning, I mean its scary when its cracking around you, but everytime there has actually been a really close one (on rock) you can feel the polorization happening. Don't think it is cool when your girlfriends hair starts rising to the sky...
 

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I know some people who pulled aside in their raft and waited out a big thunderstorm on the Ottawa. There were a number of strikes that hit the river and when they hopped back on the raft, the frame had built up a good sized charge and they got a big shock when they grounded it. Since there were strikes that hit the river, I guess it was good they weren't still paddling. But at the same time, if they had been on the raft touching the frame, they would have grounded the frame after each strike and had a few much smaller shocks. Personally, I keep paddling until the strikes get close enough and frequent enough to really scare me.

Volts jolt, current kills.

COUNT
 

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Be careful posting these kind of questions - a month after Dan asked it last year, we got slammed by a MAJOR electrical/rain/hail storm Lodore. We were rowing as hard as we could, wearing rain gear wearing our helmets for the hail, all the time saying our hail Marys as the lightning struck all around us.

(very) Fortunately we had a Jones Hole campsite and got the only shelter on the river to have dinner and warm up under, sharing with the ringtail cats, while it continued to rain that night.

Not saying Dan jinxed us, but ya never know... :wink:

--Andy
 
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