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Cycled through heavy lightning and it really scared the **** out of me.

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Cycled through heavy lightning and it really scared the **** out of me.

Old 02-21-15, 01:23 PM
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Bertnl
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Cycled through heavy lightning and it really scared the **** out of me.

I've been commuting in all seasons now, and experienced most of the elements. Rain is ok, snow is a little more annoying, cycling in tropic temperatures is awfull and so far I thought biking against extremely strong wind is the worst thing.

None of these made me ever think about quitting, I like commuting and cycling in general.

However, today I got caught up in a thunderstorm and I really scared the **** out of me. The ligtning hit very close several times. It was really terrifying.

My route is for 90% in the wide open. No possibilities for shelter at all. I really didn't know what to do and just kept going. Like I said it was a terrifying experience, and I'm seriously thinking about stopping commuting about it.

Are there people here with similair experiences?
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Old 02-21-15, 01:49 PM
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I think we've all been there at one time or another. My most vivid recollection was last Summer. I was riding home from work. I had a very bad Thunder Storm near me and it was hot on my tail. I wasn't about to stop as there wasn't any place to seek shelter from the storm anyway. As I came up a small hill, I could smell the Ozone! (You know that burnt electric smell.) Man, I'm too close to the storm! I pedaled faster and got home before the storm got any closer.
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Old 02-21-15, 02:55 PM
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i've always found some assurance that when riding on rubber tires, i was a poor grounding source. probably a load of you-know-what, like whistling in the dark.

Last edited by hueyhoolihan; 02-22-15 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 02-21-15, 03:20 PM
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When I was in Missouri, periodically I would be out on a bike ride in the middle of nowhere, and hear the tornado sirens blasting off all around me. I never had any idea what to do, but I just kept heading down the trail and decided if I ever saw a tornado, I'd head for a ditch or open field.

When I was bike commuting, the official tornado plan for my office was to send eveyrone home should a tornado strike. I could imagine limiting the liability of the company, but the policy just never made sense to me... and I didn't want to head off-site into a tornado on my bike.

I suppose I rode in some lightening. Not too bad. But the idea of riding one's bike in golf-ball hail scared the living daylights out of me.
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Old 02-21-15, 04:11 PM
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I live in Florida and lightning is a normal occurrence for us here all spring\summer and early fall. I generally will commute when there is a threat of rain in the afternoon, but when they predict heavy thunderstorm and lightning, I will drive in. I leave early enough in the afternoon, typically 3 pm, that I miss the heavy crap, but have been caught up in a nasty storm or two. Sometimes, I have delayed my departure to let the big stuff blow through. Don't let it deter you, just be more vigilant in watching the forecast and skies, and keep at it.
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Old 02-21-15, 04:21 PM
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Here in Colorado, it is dry and high in altitude and people get struck and killed by lightning every year; sometimes even when there is no storm, but that happens mostly in the foothills and on up into the mountains. Luckily my commute is through town, so when there is lightning I stop under an overhang, like at a school, a drive-thru or gas station. A couple of years ago I was a few minutes away from any commercial establishment when it began lighting and thundering and I waited under a residential car port. A few summers back my buddy and I were hiking Pikes Peak near the tree line when we heard thunder, even though the sky was relatively clear. We waited under some boulders while other hikers passed us, some even laughing at us ( I'm not sure). Well, that night we heard on the news that a hiker was struck and killed by lightning on another part of the mountain.
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Old 02-21-15, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
We waited under some boulders while other hikers passed us, some even laughing at us ( I'm not sure). Well, that night we heard on the news that a hiker was struck and killed by lightning on another part of the mountain.
I suppose I don't worry about rare events that I have no control over.

I did hear a story of a former neighbor getting killed by lightening. Apparently he and his wife took shelter under a tree during a storm. The tree was struck, and he was killed, but his wife survived.

Since hearing about the accident, I've wondered if they would have been better off to be under separate trees, so if one is struck, the other person would at least be able to render first aid.

I hate sitting in the rain, but they might also have been better off to be in an open field rather than under the tree.
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Old 02-21-15, 10:15 PM
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When I was a kid in Vancouver, BC, I rode in the rain many times. But it was only last June I rode through a thunderstorm. That was the same storm where a golfer was struck by lightening but luckily his life was saved because a fellow golfer nearby happened to be a nurse.

When I got home, my wife told me the roof was leaking.
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Old 02-22-15, 08:59 AM
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My old commute to work involved several miles of bike path that was under or near some high tension power lines. I could hear them sizzle when they got wet, and the only thing that made me more nervous than that sound was being under them while it was thundering.
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Old 02-22-15, 09:04 AM
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I commute through some wide open areas, and find being out on the bike when the storm is moving in to be a totally awesome experience. Something persons enclosed in cars will not experience in nearly the same fashion. Watching the massive cloud front moving in, feeling the winds kick up and the temp/pressure drop, and yes, even smell it like Colorado Kid mentioned. Nothing between you and the weather. It is such an alive feeling!

I sometimes stop for a moment just to look around and take it all in... then jump on board and pedal like hell!

Close lightning strikes are quite exciting too, but not nearly as much fun! Been there, don't like to do that.
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Old 02-22-15, 09:14 AM
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A teanager came out to the road and told us Tornado Warning ahead.

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Old 02-22-15, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Bertnl View Post
I've been commuting in all seasons now, and experienced most of the elements. Rain is ok, snow is a little more annoying, cycling in tropic temperatures is awfull and so far I thought biking against extremely strong wind is the worst thing.

None of these made me ever think about quitting, I like commuting and cycling in general.

However, today I got caught up in a thunderstorm and I really scared the **** out of me. The ligtning hit very close several times. It was really terrifying.

My route is for 90% in the wide open. No possibilities for shelter at all. I really didn't know what to do and just kept going. Like I said it was a terrifying experience, and I'm seriously thinking about stopping commuting about it.

Are there people here with similair experiences?
Move to Seattle. We've got a really bike friendly culture, we almost never have thunderstorms, and I don't know where you are but most of the country is freezing their &utts off while we're around 55F and sunny. Take Cover in Seattle. :-)
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Old 02-22-15, 11:27 AM
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Yes, I've had that experience a few times on commutes, commuting in a rainstorm with lightning strikes way too close. You get that adrenaline surge on every strike, and I won't deny some fear either. Castigating myself for taking a stupid chance. My biggest danger isn't even the lightning in those storms - it's wind, flood, trees and sometimes hail.

There is something to do about it. Trivial as it seems, watch the radar for a couple of hours before, one with lightning strikes also. You can know with almost certainty when a storm cell is moving through and when the gaps or lulls are there, and then be flexible enough to take the best shot. My advice from experience when doing this, don't cut it too close "racing" the storm

People will tell us that lightning can strike from 10 miles away from a clear sky, and that whenever you hear thunder you must wait 30 minutes to be safe. That's true, sort of, but it always strikes me a bit of fear-mongering. The chances of something like that affecting us are hugely, vastly smaller than a strike during a storm, trivial in comparison. Wait for the gap, then go.
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Old 02-22-15, 04:48 PM
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On days with tricky weather i keep an eye on the weather radar on weather.gov. If it looks like i'll just make it with maybe some rain, i'll do the trip, if it looks like a stronger/more severe affair, i'll hang back till it passes. In the off chance that i'm caught out, i will et to the nearest shelter. If it looks like it may be severe for a while, i may just press on to a place i can hang back for more than a few minutes.

And yea, lightning striking when you're on a bike is scary. If you really feel in danger, ditch the bike at least 25 feet from you & lay as low as you can til the worst passes. Try not to ride near overhead wires or tall trees.. even if you don't get hit it could fall on you.

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Old 02-22-15, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Bertnl View Post
I've been commuting in all seasons now, and experienced most of the elements. Rain is ok, snow is a little more annoying, cycling in tropic temperatures is awfull and so far I thought biking against extremely strong wind is the worst thing.

None of these made me ever think about quitting, I like commuting and cycling in general.

However, today I got caught up in a thunderstorm and I really scared the **** out of me. The ligtning hit very close several times. It was really terrifying.

My route is for 90% in the wide open. No possibilities for shelter at all. I really didn't know what to do and just kept going. Like I said it was a terrifying experience, and I'm seriously thinking about stopping commuting about it.

Are there people here with similair experiences?
I bet that was terrifying. It has the potential to be a pretty dangerous situation.

We have similar problems up here in the North and if I were to not try and dodge the weather especially in the late spring, I'd never get any riding in. There are a lot of good apps that you can get for your smartphone that show weather radar and even lightning strikes. Usually with thunderstorms, they pass thru quickly and you can get on with your ride. So it's not like a protracted problem where you're going to have ground strike lightning all day or something.

Some good apps on the iPhone that have lightning and/or good radar capability are MyCast, LightningCast, RadarCast. I've found them invaluable for just the problem you describe for cycling, for soccer when my kids used to play soccer (exposed fields etc...) and for sailboat racing/sailing. If you want terrifying, try sailing through ground strike lightning hanging onto the tiller of a sailboat that has a 30' aluminum lightning rod up in the sky.

So I think with thunderstorms and lightning, the biggest defense is knowledge and then judiciously adjusting one's schedule to accommodate the quick passage of a storm line.

J.
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Old 02-23-15, 09:19 AM
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Maybe check the weather forecast first? I have many places to duck and cover on my route and have used them. Weather app? So wide open? Like a field with no buildings in the country side? I have used ATM's, fire stations, peoples front porchs( just knock on the door) and gazebos in a park.
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Old 02-23-15, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
People will tell us that lightning can strike from 10 miles away from a clear sky, and that whenever you hear thunder you must wait 30 minutes to be safe. That's true, sort of, but it always strikes me a bit of fear-mongering. The chances of something like that affecting us are hugely, vastly smaller than a strike during a storm, trivial in comparison. Wait for the gap, then go.

30/30 rule. We covered it in my last first aid/CPR/AED class earlier this month. If the it's less than 30 seconds between the flash and the boom, get to shelter; stay there until at least 30 minutes after the last lighting-thunder <30 seconds occurrence.
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Old 02-23-15, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
I commute through some wide open areas, and find being out on the bike when the storm is moving in to be a totally awesome experience. Something persons enclosed in cars will not experience in nearly the same fashion. Watching the massive cloud front moving in, feeling the winds kick up and the temp/pressure drop, and yes, even smell it like Colorado Kid mentioned. Nothing between you and the weather. It is such an alive feeling!
+1!

Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
Close lightning strikes are quite exciting too, but not nearly as much fun! Been there, don't like to do that.
Never been too close to a lightning strike, but it must be really scary!
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Old 02-23-15, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by KenshiBiker View Post
30/30 rule. We covered it in my last first aid/CPR/AED class earlier this month. If the it's less than 30 seconds between the flash and the boom, get to shelter; stay there until at least 30 minutes after the last lighting-thunder <30 seconds occurrence.
Yep, that's the rule. 30 seconds is six miles, and then 30 minutes more for it to get further away. It happens. Moreover, lightning from that distance is likely to be the positive polarity strikes from very high, which are greater in intensity and duration making them more lethal.

I don't tell people to take risks, but frankly I ignore this rule. If you are concerned about these strikes from a distance you cannot ride through the gaps between storms. You must wait until the entire system has passed through. I try to minimize risk but not eliminate it, looking for a balance between risk and practicality.
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Old 02-23-15, 10:06 AM
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I've been there once. I could have taken shelter at 2 points, but pressed on because I was about 3 miles from home at the point of the first shelter, and a mile at the 2nd. Definitely some adrenaline surge. Just remember, if you can hear the thunder, lightening can strike you. If I remember my meteorology classes correctly, thunder can be heard about 9 miles away (sometimes much further, depending on conditions), and lightening can strike from as far as 30 miles (bolt from the blue). I think I also remember learning that the average distance between successive lightening strikes is 2-3 miles.

If caught out in a field, crouch, don't lay down.
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Old 02-23-15, 10:27 AM
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Actually, the problem is that the lighting is out in front of the storm line usually. So if you see a storm approaching, the lighting danger is present much sooner than the storm. IIRC, the ground strikes can be as much as 5 to 10 miles out in front of the actual storm line and can come from a even a blue sky. It really easy to get visually focused on the storm line as it's evident in the clouds, but it's out in front of that where the real danger lies.

That's why having one of the apps that shows lightning strikes is important. You can look at that and see where the line of approaching strikes is and know if the problem is heading your way or not.

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Old 02-23-15, 10:48 AM
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re: "Are there people here with similar experiences?"

oh yes. well sort of. one summer got caught in the rain and lightening. in one case there was "rolling" thunder right over me from one side over my head and then to the other side. it was so scary it sounded like a giant monster hovering over my head trying to decide whether or not to disintegrate me. I was so lucky that there wasn't a lighting strike but I got off the bike and huddled grasping my knees like they say you should with as little contact with the ground as possible. never so scared. after that I didn't ride as willingly when "scattered" thunderstorms were forecast.
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Old 02-23-15, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
Never been too close to a lightning strike, but it must be really scary!
When the flash and the bang happen simultaneously it's understandable if you pee yourself a bit!
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Old 02-23-15, 11:27 AM
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A morning forecast can tell you if conditions will be ripe for thunderstorms in the late afternoon but those forecasts are not good enough to tell you exactly when and where the severe weather will occur.

Lots of times thunderstorms will be predicted but it will be perfectly clear for the ride home so I don't use those morning predictions to determine whether I will ride or not. Usually thunderstorms are pretty fast moving so as others have said, you can often find a safe window by either leaving a little early or staying a little late.
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Old 02-23-15, 12:05 PM
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I've ridden in thunderstorms a couple of times. It's not fun! Downpours, strong gusty winds, and lightning striking close by.

Your rubber tires will do absolutely nothing to save you. That's an old wives' tale. The reason cars are "safe" is that electricity travels around the outside of things. The car's metal body will conduct the electricity to the ground before it gets to you inside. Absolutely nothing to do with rubber tires.

Lightning has something like 100,000,000 Volts - that can travel through anything. The best thing you can do is to make yourself unattractive to the lightning. Don't be the tallest thing around. If it gets really bad, get off the road and find shelter.
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