Lightning is a familiar danger to anyone enjoying the great outdoors in Colorado. But this wet summer, it has been particularly risky. In a single event, eight people working in a farm field near Wellington were injured July 18. And last Wednesday, a dozen soldiers were injured at Fort Carson.
According to the National Weather Service, from 1980 to 2012, 412 people reported injuries from lightning strikes and there were 91 fatalities. The typical annual total for Colorado is 13 lightning-strike injuries.
Early-afternoon thunderstorms are so common in Colorado that experienced hikers know to descend by noon to reduce the risk of injury by lightning. People are accustomed to storms that result in lightning-related house and garage fires, or power outages, such as the one that darkened 10,000 homes and businesses in Fountain for an hour Thursday afternoon.
But powerful storms injuring large numbers of people this year have put the focus on warning against exposure to lightning. Injuries from strikes can range from shock and extremity numbness to unconsciousness, or even death. According to the National Weather Service, 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