"When thunder roars, go indoors!"
When it comes to lightning safety, always remember this quote. If you are outside and hear thunder, you are already in danger of being struck by lightning! Do not delay seeking shelter - take immediate action. Lightning can strike 10-15 miles away from the actual storm. Just because it's not raining, does not mean you are safe! The bottom line is that there is no safe place outdoors when lightning is in the area.
Each year, an average of 25 people are killed each year from lightning. Fatalities often occur when the individuals are unaware of an incoming storm. It is important to understand the risks and take the proper precautions so that further deaths and injuries can be prevented. Always check the weather forecast before spending time outdoors, and keep in mind that the forecast for the area that you are visiting may differ from where you live. This is especially important in the summer when thunderstorms occur most often. Pop-up storms are always possible during the summer season, so it is important to stay prepared.
33% of all lightning fatalities are related to water activities. With boating being so popular in Maine, it is important to know how to lessen your risk of being "caught" near a thunderstorm. First, check the weather forecast. If thunderstorms are probable, DO NOT go out on the water! When you are out on a boat, stay alert and be on the lookout for dark clouds or the sound of thunder. Have a plan in place to quickly find shelter if the need arises. Most deaths occur on small boats that do not have a cabin. If you are out on the water during a storm and cannot get back to safety, get as low as possible. Lightning is most likely to hit high points.
Hiking and Camping
When going hiking or camping in Maine, it is important to know the weather patterns for the area you are visiting. For example, storms tend to occur during the afternoon hours in mountainous areas. Plan your trips accordingly so you do not get stuck without any means of shelter. If you do get caught outdoors during a storm, there are a few things you can do to slightly decrease your risk of being struck by lightning. Remember, you are NEVER safe outdoors, and these tips are a last-ditch effort. Firstly, head to your vehicle. If this is not possible, be sure to avoid open field or hilltops. Stay near a low pocket of trees, as opposed to a tall, isolated tree. Steer clear of water and metal objects. If you are with a group of people, spread out from each other. This will prevent the current from traveling through multiple people if someone is struck by lightning.
The Bottom Line
Stay diligent, prepared, and alert. Check the weather forecast before spending time outdoors. Do not go out to a place where you cannot immediately find shelter, especially if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Have a course of action if you do get caught in a storm.