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Practical Advice on Avoiding Lightning Strikes While Touring the Plains

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Practical Advice on Avoiding Lightning Strikes While Touring the Plains

Old 07-06-11, 08:28 PM
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thesearethesuns
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Practical Advice on Avoiding Lightning Strikes While Touring the Plains

I posted this as a response to a related comment in another thread, but I figured I'll start a fresh thread for this topic. A major concern of mine (and I would wager some others here) is imagining what I would do if I found myself out touring the plains in the middle of a sudden electrical storm, while seated on a sizable metallic object.


I do have a weather radio. I know to get off my bicycle. I know to avoid the highest places, solitary trees, and to stay at least 100 yards away from a lake or other body of water. But what about when there is nothing around but grass for miles? Any other good advice here on how to minimize the chances of getting struck while out on the plains?
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Old 07-06-11, 08:30 PM
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kenji666
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Ride a carbon fiber bike. Oh, and make sure you connect a large gauge ground wire to your handlebars.
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Old 07-06-11, 09:27 PM
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Here's some good advice: https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/forum...hread_id=77456

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Old 07-07-11, 06:32 AM
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I for one am not that concerned.

From what I can tell, around 65 people per year are killed by lightning in the US. As a comparison, there were 2.4 million deaths in the US in 2007, mostly from heart disease (616k), cancer (560k), stroke (135k), accidents (123K).

As to "what to do on the plains," lighting will basically strike a random location, so if there is no shelter nearby then nothing you do will reduce the possibility of getting hit. You might want to get off the bike while the lightning is very close.

Getting hit by a car is a significantly higher risk, and one that is more actionable by the cyclist. As such, I'm not losing any sleep over lightning.
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Old 07-07-11, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by raybo View Post
Thanks Ray. That post brings up some good points like dropping to your knees and curling up into a ball (in order to reduce your surface area, and to not be the highest object in your vicinity.) Getting into a low lying ditch (but I would image grass covered and relatively dry ditch) sounds useful too.

Anything else?
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Old 07-07-11, 10:34 AM
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Severe thunderstorms frequently come with hail, which is unlikely to seriously injure you (unless its really big) but may be quite painful. When on tour, I carry a tarp to use as a groundcloth for the tent, but I always strap it to the outside of my panniers - when I have to hunker down in a ditch, it helps to have something to put between me and the rain/hail/ditchwater.

Sometimes highways have relatively high embankments, and these are better than ditches for shelter - you can get down below the level of the road, but still be on the slope instead of the bottom of the ditch where dirty water pools.

On the plains, thunderstorms sometimes spawn tornados as well; the solution to that is to get as low as possible in the ditch and try to move away from trees, cars, cows, and any other large objects that might get thrown at you.

Those tips are for situations where you can't find shelter, but don't be bashful about asking random strangers for shelter - people in areas prone to thunderstorms are aware of the danger of severe weather and are unlikely to turn you away if it is really bad.
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Old 07-09-11, 10:28 AM
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I live in a rural area on the northern plains. One of the reasons I moved here was because the people were so friendly when I biked across the US years ago. The only hesitation I would have about approaching a farm house and asking for shelter during a thunderstorm would be in wondering where the dogs were (oops, let's not get sidetracked on dogs).

Besides the lightning, with a bad thunderstorm you also have to worry about getting hit by a car due to the poor visibility. Plus, there are often high straight line winds -- we get 70+ mph winds every spring with thunderstorms. Time to head for the ditch or other shelter with those.

Ok, I wasn't on a bike, but I once got caught in a thunderstorm in Montana. I was on an open mountainside while on horseback, herding sheep, when lightning struck less than 100 yards from me -- you've never seen a guy get off a horse faster than I did at that point. I led the horse to a low spot and hunkered down while we experienced thundersnow and lightning stuck about a dozen times right around us over the next 15 or 20 minutes. It was scary! If you can keep riding your bike in those conditions, you're a lot tougher than I am. If I see anything like that on my bike, I'm bailing off.
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