Stayin' Alive: Shocking Experiences

With warmer weather prevalent during the daytime hours and cooler nights following them the propensity for thunderstorms to develop is high this time of year. Our topography presents situations where someone could be caught off guard by rapidly changing weather conditions while enjoying outdoor activities. As watching a thunderstorm with the backdrop of the Catskills is breathtaking and surreal there are a few tips one must keep in mind to protect themselves if caught off guard.

If you're fishing, swimming, boating, or tubing when a storm approaches get to land and find shelter immediately. Stay away from the creeks, lakes and other bodies of water. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and nearby lightning strikes often travel through it.

If you are in the woods when a storm occurs find an area protected by a low clump of trees. Never stand under a large tree in the open and stay away from tall structures such as tall trees, fences, or telephone and power lines as lightning strikes the tallest object in an area.

As a last resort, if no shelter is available and particularly if you feel your hair stand on end (an indication lightning is about to strike), get to a low-lying open place away from trees. Immediately make yourself the smallest target possible. Drop to your knees and bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. Or crouch on the balls of your feet. Do not lie flat as this makes you a larger target.

As always, if you see a downed power line following a storm, call 911 immediately. Don’t touch the line or anything that is in contact with the line. Don’t attempt to move the line and keep others away. Do not assume that just because it may not look like a power line, that it is not energized.

Stay Safe Out There.

Rich Muellerleile is the captain of the Shandaken Ambulance Service. He posts regular safety tips in his new column, Stayin' Alive, on our Shandaken town page.