Sunday, August 19, 2007

Surviving a Thunderstorm

A PREPAREDNESS GUIDE for severe weather is published by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service. The following is our adaptation of that guide to specifically address cyclist concerns. National Weather Service has reviewed and approved this adaptation.

In general . . .

  • Cyclists on the road are most at risk from thunderstorms if they are under or near tall trees, are on or near hilltops, or are themselves high points on flat terrain (such as crossing an open field).
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Look for safe shelter immediately!
  • When skies darken, look AND listen for increasing wind, flashes of lightning, sound of thunder
  • Lightning remains a danger even when a thunderstorm is dissipating or has passed by.

When thunderstorms approach . . .

  • If you are on a hill with exposure to the sky, try to head downhill, seeking out an overhanging bluff or a valley or ravine where you can lower your exposure.
  • Move to a sturdy building or shelter if there is one within reach (such as an underpass, a large barn, a store or railroad station). Do not take shelter in small sheds or under isolated trees.
  • However, get to higher ground if flash flooding is possible where you are (such as by a creek bed).

If caught outdoors and no shelter is nearby . . .

  • Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees. (Lightning is more likely to strike the tallest trees.)
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, dismount fast, get away from your bike, and squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground.
Source : League of American Bicyclist. Photo courtesy of

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