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Erek
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Hey everyone, I am curious what you do in the event a lightning storm rolls in. The outfitter I work at and along with the other companies on the river continue downriver for the most part as we are under the impression that being the lowest point in the valley is not that big of a deal. My company specifically will pull over for ten minutes or so to let the storm pass. I am basically trying to piece together a procedure for when I private boat as my paddling partner (my girlfriend) does not want to be on the water with storms in the area. Thanks!
-Erek
 

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Good question. Im curious what others do as well. When I guided in PA, the banks of the river were always considered the most dangerous during a storm. One year a group got caught in a storm and eddy to shore only to have a massive branch fall off a tree puncturing a tube, luckily no one got hit. I will try to eddy out in center and hunker down for a little behind rocks if I think it will blast through. But if not, sitting around will just make clients/ girlfriends cold or worse hypodermic. 85% of the time I continue down river, paddling to stay warm and getting closer to warm car/tent and dry clothes.
 

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GoBro
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Never let your paddling partners becomes hypodermic. Also continue on the boof parade. It's in everyone's interest for both fun and safety.
 

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Never worked for a river guide company but most organizations I worked for had people stop and get into "lightning position" if it was within 7-10 miles of us (based on seconds from lightning to thunder). It does seem like every reliable source recommends being away from rocks/caves (they can splinter lightning), the tallest trees and comparatively open spaces. Fighting hypothermia became a problem for long storms. Major thunderstorms are one of the reasons I love ponchos on land as I have found them to be much warmer than suits.

What we do on the river most of the time....keep rowing. Yeah, its less than ideal to be on the water (always some contact with water it seems wether in a bucket boat or SB) but it always seems like sixes compared to shore. When storms sit right on top of us with consistent lightning then we do find shore and hunker down.

In the backcountry it seems there are less clearcut "best" choices and more opportunities to weigh less ideal versus less ideal when it comes to lightning.

Phillip
 

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I usually stand up on my drybox, shake my fist at the dark, tumultuous skies, as the first fat drops of rain are pelting my upturned face and shout at the top of my lungs, "I ain't skeerd of NOTHIN! Not you, not lightning, not the overrated forces of nature! Man shall overpower and subdue you, wicked Universe!"

Seriously, though, this was discussed here a few years and IIRC and no one could recall an instance when a boater on the river had been struck. My thought is that, as unpleasant and frightening as it can be, floating on the river puts one at the lowest point of the local landscape, and that staying on the river doesn't put you in any greater danger than pulling over to shore, especially if you'll be hanging out under a tree or an overhang. Knock wood...

Does anyone know of an instance when a rafter or kayaker on the river has been struck by lightning? If so, come forth and tell us.

Thanks,

-AH
 

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Old Guy in a PFD
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We also pretty much just kept going, the theory being getting on shore put you closer to trees that seemed to be the most often hit targets.

Once on Gore we were racing for State Bridge, trying to beat a storm and lightning was hitting maybe a couple of miles upstream. I mean, BIG strikes. When the hair on my arms started standing up and I could smell the ozone I seriously thought about getting to shore, but decided there wasn't any place safer there than sitting on water in a (sort of) rubber cocoon. Anyway, the storm passed, we loaded up at State Bridge and discussed the day at State Bridge Bar (RIP) over Jelly Beans and beers.

The consensus was we should maybe look into the proper procedure for lightning storms on the river.

By the way, our practice in camp when lightning started hitting was to elect the "nastiest passenger", help them move their tent to the highest spot in camp and erect (using an oar and some braided wire from the repair kit) a lightning rod next to the tent. We'd tell them the safest thing was for them to stay in their tent until the storm passed.:)
 

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Does anyone know of an instance when a rafter or kayaker on the river has been struck by lightning? If so, come forth and tell us.

Thanks,

-AH
Never heard of it and a google search provided nothing....other then this gem, which looks made up but I have to post because of a few of the witty replies

"That is quite an oar deal"
"You can't have your kayak and heat it too"

 

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Old Guy in a PFD
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OK, we're only 30 years late doing our research, but this is what I found;
NWS Lightning Safety Outdoors

  • On the Water: The vast majority of lightning injuries and deaths on boats occur on small boats with no cabinhttp://www.crh.noaa.gov/pub/?n=/ltg/marine_ltg.php. It is crucial to listen to weather information when you are boating. If thunderstorms are forecast, do not go out. If you are out and cannot get back to land and safety, drop anchor and get as low as possible. Large boats with cabins, especially those with lightning protection systems properly installed, or metal marine vessels are relatively safe. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces. Stay off the radio unless it is an emergency!
  • Scuba Divers: If the boat you are in does not have a cabin you can get into during lightning activity, then you are safer diving deep into the water for the duration of the storm or as long as possible.
These actions may slightly reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:

  • Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
  • If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
  • Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances
So I guess the short answer is; you pretty much have to just hunker down and pray, dive to the bottom of the river, or head for shore away from tall trees to camp in a ravine.:eek:


(Next; How to avoid flash floods)


Schutzie predicts someone will soon post how they built a lightning protection system for their raft. You know, cause they could.
 

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the lighting protection system for my raft is the flag the boat in front of me is flyin' ;)
 

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Never heard of it and a google search provided nothing....other then this gem, which looks made up but I have to post because of a few of the witty replies

"That is quite an oar deal"
"You can't have your kayak and heat it too"

Brings a "hull" new meaning to explosive entrance..... ha
 

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We never used to think it would strike at the river. A few years ago it did hit in/near a camp. Everyone wearing shoes was fine. Everyone barefoot got struck and one person had to be evacuated. Wear your shoes!!
 

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Never heard of it and a google search provided nothing....other then this gem, which looks made up but I have to post because of a few of the witty replies

"That is quite an oar deal"
"You can't have your kayak and heat it too"


Looks more like the pressure washer overheated and its fuel tank burned...see the most burning at the dock right below it.
 

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If I'm in any sort of a canyon, which is usually the case in my kayak, then I'm not concerned about lightning.
 

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I'm not satisfied with the advice in this thread. The "stay away from the water" advice combined with the "the water is the lowest point" advice is not really encouraging.

Can anyone link to anything credible?
 

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American Whitewater's accident database lists zero fatalities due to lightning.

The "stay away from water" thing is usually meant for lakes where you're next to a large, flat area and you're probably one of the taller things in the area.

I'd say you're safer on the river as well. Most lightning deaths I've heard of in Colorado are people above tree line when a storm moves in or fishing at a lake when a lightning storm arrives. Places where you're the tallest thing seems to be a common denominator more than just avoiding water.
 

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I cannot offer anything more credible than I'm still here...but I know the one place on the river that I wouldn't go near are the tall, exposed trees along the bank... I'm pretty certain it's a crap shoot wherever else you may be but that's where I don't go during a T-storm.

The few bad ones I've sat out were underneath dense willow groves and that was mostly for protection from rain and hail. I have been on the water for golf ball sized hail, that was painful and expensive. We ended up getting into the willows but still go pummeled pretty good. The fly rods did not fair as well as we did.

If I get hit by lightning while floating, I'll consider it my time!
 

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On Deso this July, there were afternoon thunderstorms every day. In a steep and narrow section, lightning struck a pinnacle half-way down the all rock slope, maybe 1000' away. Definitly the loudest thing I've ever heard, and I've been close to 16" naval gunfire, and large dynamite charges. We rowed a little faster away from the cloud. I advise turning off all electronic devices and continuing to float. I have had lightning hit very near me on an ocean beach at the water margin, maybe 30 feet away, and on another occasion, it hit an antenna I was standing next to. I've also been in a deep and narrow stream canyon, and seen it bypass the ridges and hit the very bottom. But most of my encounters were on high ridges. It is clear that there are no fool-proof measures to avoid it. At least if you keep floating, you avoid secondary blasts coming off rock or trees. The truly paranoid might try bringing a thick rubber welcome-mat and poncho and try to hover over that and keep it dry.
That said, I was in a nighttime Yampa storm in 2011 that boasted over 150 very close strikes in an hour. We were camped on a sandbar in the river, and many of the lightning strikes on the rim produced rockfall that you heard plunking into the river beside the tent. There were two Christian men on the trip that never slept a wink. I drifted off to Never-land, musing that if it's my time to go, I'll go without regrets.
 
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