Summer is here and many of you are heading out on a hike. But summer is also the period of heat waves… and therefore, the period of storms. Which walker has never been surprised by a threatening cloud?
We advise you this article to help you adopt the good practices in case of thunderstorms during your hike.
Preventing the risks of thunderstorms
The first thing is, of course, to check the local weather forecasts before heading out. Be careful, check the weather a week before your hike will be useless… In medium mountain, you must inquire about the weather and the risk of thunderstorm at least two days before your departure and this until the D-day. Thus, you will follow the evolution of the weather and will be able to postpone if necessary.
Despite these precautions, while hiking, you must remain vigilant concerning the arrival more or less rapid of a storm. A certain number of signs must warn you about the imminent arrival of a storm.
The signs of an imminent storm
The clouds that are the cause of thunderstorms are the cumulus, of small sizes at first. They have a tendency of then growing and gain altitude. They then become darker and turn into cumulonimbus. Taking the shape of an anvil, they can then be wide on several tens of kilometers! The sky darkens and the risk of storm becomes real.
The other signs of an imminent storm are some gusts of wind which can sometimes be violent and, of course, also the rain.
What are the dangers of thunderstorms while hiking?
The most obvious danger during a storm is, of course, the lightning which can be deadly if it strikes. Every year, there are cases of walkers struck by lightning. We must not neglect this danger.
Other dangers, maybe less obvious, exist during violent thunderstorms:
- The hail can be a source of injury,
- The fall of branches because of the wind,
- The rock falls in mountain.
The heavy rains which can come with the thunderstorms can also result in rivers bursting out of their banks and changing harmless streams in absolute deadly torrents! An example, below, in Haute-Loire in June 2017, after a storm, the stream of Bethe (municipality of the Brignon) which has been turned into a several meters wide destructive torrent!
Where find shelter in case of thunderstorms?
There hardly ever an ideal shelter in case of storm. Above all, avoid the summits, the isolated trees, the boulders and water points (lakes, rivers…). Try to reach a barn or the annex of a house nearby to find shelter.
How to protect yourself during a thunderstorm?
First of all, get rid of any metal objects you have, especially your waking poles… leave them somewhere and distance yourself from them!
Stay calm and don’t run. Put on your rain clothing. Then, choose a low, crouch position, arms around your legs and head between the knees. If possible, isolate yourself from the ground with your backpack for example. It’s not the easiest, but then, you just have to wait…
Golden rule: anticipate
Safety is the best weapon against thunderstorms. They often break out in the late afternoon so leave early! If you see that the weather is taking a turn for the worse, anticipate to find shelter before the thunderstorm breaks out and speed up.
But most of all, do not hesitate to postpone your hike if the weather isn’t favorable…