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Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story

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Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 21, 2012 09:41AM
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19326042

Lightning strike survivor: 'We thought we were on fire'

US backpacker Joshua White, 36, his brother Colton, 23, and friend Ian Richmond, 26, are recovering after they were all struck by lighting while sharing a tent near Mount Whitney in California.
Their lucky escape comes shortly after US weather body, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revealed that at least 21 people died across the United States after they were struck by lightning in the year to date.

Please do not post entire articles in violation of copyright.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/21/2012 09:51AM by eeek.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 21, 2012 05:22PM
Those guys were lucky. Thanks for posting.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 21, 2012 06:44PM
Yikes! My wife and I left Guitar Lake that morning at 4:30 for the summit and on out to Whitney portal. As is probably usual, there were a lot of people working their way to the summit of Whitney later than I would have liked to have seen; especially those that did not seem comfortable on the rocky trail or otherwise seem less "up to the task". It was a week of afternoon thunderstorms and the t-storms started about 12:30 on the 14th and went on for the usual 2 or 3 hours. As we were walking out that afternoon, suffering from a few minor showers but really nothing worse, we could hear the thunder echoing off of the canyon walls up high, and were concerned about many of the folks at or near the summit, as it seemed like there was a lot of lightning up there. I would have thought that Guitar Lake would have been safe, however. Good thing we got out of there!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/2012 05:16PM by Bearproof.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 06:47AM
Why would Guitar Lake be safe? Isn't it above treeline?

If you are the tallest object on the landscape, you are not safe. Reading the NOLS lightning safety brief, there are no truly safe places, just more safe than some, and one should avoid treeless open places, as well as caves and ridge tops. The protocol is to drop all metal and separate yourself at least 50 ft from other members of your group, balance on the balls of your feet while crouching on an insulated pad, and wait it out.

The top of Half Dome, infamous for lightning strikes every month of the year, is not so high elevation as Guitar Lake. Anywhere in the open at elevation is dangerous in a lightning storm because there is no forest.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 05:15PM
My mistake...not necessarily "safe" but relatively safer, being that Guitar Lake is surrounded by peaks that are 2500-3000 feet higher. And being below treeline is no guarantee either.
And apparently being in a swimming pool may not be the answer as well!

Lots of good information here...

NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guide
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 05:41PM
Quote
Bearproof
And apparently being in a swimming pool may not be the answer as well!

I left this hot spring when the lightning started hitting the ground between me and the Glass Mountains:


http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php/v/hotsprings/sh-p7280063.jpg.html
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 05:50PM
Quote
eeek


I left this hot spring when the lightning started hitting the ground between me and the Glass Mountains:


http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php/v/hotsprings/sh-p7280063.jpg.html

Yeah I would have gotten my glass outta there pretty quick myself!
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 24, 2012 06:44AM
Judging by da wata... looks to me like eeek tinkle in der when lightning strike.



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 24, 2012 10:54AM
Quote
chick-on
Judging by da wata... looks to me like eeek tinkle in der when lightning strike.

That's clay particles suspended in the water, birdie, and I don't pee clay.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 05:52PM
Never had a direct hit but got too close for comfort twice. We were on the Windows Trail in Arches when lightening hit Turret Arch. Right before it hit our hair stood on end and then we felt the compression wave after it was hit. In Rocky Mt NP, coming back from Emerald Lake, ran into a huge thunder storm with marble size hail. Never again have we underestimated how quick the storms move in those areas.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 23, 2012 09:08PM
Quote
eeek
Quote
Bearproof
And apparently being in a swimming pool may not be the answer as well!

I left this hot spring when the lightning started hitting the ground between me and the Glass Mountains:


http://yosemitephotos.net/main.php/v/hotsprings/sh-p7280063.jpg.html

Is this the one they call "Crab Cooker"?
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 06:15PM
Barepoof,
What I dooz is dis... I looks around for the nearest tree that's been hit by lightning.
Then I fly up to da top of dat. Safe and sound. Every smart bird knows that
lightning never strikes the same place twice!

smiling smiley



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 06:35PM
I just make sure that there is somebody in my group that's taller than I am. Kinda like my bear advice...you just don't want to be the slowest person in your group.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 23, 2012 12:33AM
If one plays golf, then one should just bring along their 1-iron with them and when lighting starts to occur, just swing their 1-iron over their head. Grinning Devil

.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 23, 2012 10:22AM
Quote
plawrence
If one plays golf

One shouldn't.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 21, 2012 06:53PM
They were definitely lucky.

I'm still afraid when lightning starts because I was hit by a ground charge when I was 13, from lightning that struck about 100 ft. away. Nothing as bad as they're reporting, but I couldn't sleep because my right arm (the one attached to a hand that was touching metal) was numb until the next morning.

Glad they made it OK.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 03:39PM
I got hit by a ground charge while in a swimming pool, I actually felt my heart when every muscle contracted. Lightning came from a storm that had passed over 30 minutes earlier. My buddy was underwater having just went off the diving board, he didn't swim for years after that.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 07:25PM
When I lived in Maine I once stood in my front doorway watching a local thunderstorm develope. My hair literally stood on end about 4-5 seconds prior to a lightening strike a few hundred feet behind the house. Freaky! No, I never did that again.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 07:30PM
The other thing that happened in my case...for about five minutes afterwards my vision was like seeing through a hazy tunnel. Thankfully that went away quickly! And later that same year I was home (in MI) reading a book when lightning hit nearby, and I felt a static charge on my fingers (?!). I was alone, and went into the basement, and another blast hit nearby and I saw sparks running along the water pipes.

That was not a good year.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 22, 2012 07:41PM
Sobering account. They are of course very lucky the lightning only passed across their skin and not through their brain or core torse organs.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.57036,-118.31370&z=15&t=T

Refer to the above link. Although there are some taller ridges and peaks near Guitar Lake, 11.4k, if a thunderstorm is moving from the southwest up the Whitney Creek canyon as is the most common direction thunderstorm buildups come from in the Sierra, then there is a rather wide area across the canyon where step leaders would not come close enough to any of the higher canyon walls or peaks to complete a discharge path to. The safest location near Guitar Lake would be south of the southernmost point on the south shore right at the 3500 meter line where the landscape first rises up. Generally one should seek the vertex of convex landforms away from terrain knees and away from water whether that be a lake edge, stream, or marsh. Well drained dry mineral soils are best. Large expanses of bedrock may be dangerous because when wet, a lightning strike some distance away may flash across the wet rock in all directions.

The safest spot in that upper basin is probably on the south side of the lower Hitchcock Lake below the L in WL3540 right at the base of that steep face which is likely to be large talus. Generally when I am above timberline in such places and have time while storms are brewing, I look for areas below cliffs as they almost always have some sizeable talus that one can get under enough to stay dry without having to tent. Negatively charged ionized step leaders are far more likely to complete discharge paths to either the ridgetop due southwest above the steep face or right into the lake where the huge negative charge in the ionized air of the leader is seeking a path into the positively ionized water that had electrons pushed away from the surface due to the large negative charge in the cloud base.

The second most common direction for thunderstorms is monsoonal flow from the southeast. If clouds above are actually moving, it is likely to discharge all leaders against the high areas of the Sierra Crest like Mount Whitney. However if the thunderstorms are building up above the crest without moving as is sometimes the case when heat driven canyon breezes are coming up all canyons, then a huge thunderhead may just sit atop that area and drop step leaders down all over with the whole upper basin in trouble. I'd then try to move over to that location below the L.



http://www.davidsenesac.com



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/2012 07:54PM by DavidSenesac.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 24, 2012 07:05AM
My lightning story:
I was in Yellowstone in 1992. One of my brothers that had been there before recommended a place for the best buffalo burger, just outside Yellowstones northern entrance. I had brought all my food for this week trip in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, but I wanted to eat out.
As I was waiting for my burger and fries, I look outside and see the blackest, darkest storm front that I had ever seen in my life. For some reason, I decided that I should get back to my campsite, instead of just waiting out the storm in my Chevy Blazer.
As I start driving while eating a great burger, the sky is getting darker. I get to the ranger kiosk, show my pass and go through. About 100 yards in front of me is the Roosevelt Arch, the iconic stone arch that is inside the Northern entrance to Yellowstone. I was about 20 yards past the kiosk, when all of a sudden, lightning hits the stone arch. The flash filled the whole windshield, the sound was unbelievable. Well, as I drove through the arch, I kept eating because it was really a great burger . I guess that I was naive and didn't know how lucky that I was that I wasn't under the arch a few seconds sooner. I wasn't aware of the danger that I had been in.
It then started to hail; It started hailing so much that I swore that the hail was coming up out of the ground. I pulled to the side of the road. Meanwhile, I was finishing up my burger and fries. It hailed for about 5 minutes. When I got back to my campsite, my tent was still standing, but there was ice everywhere around the campsite.
Someday I will go back to Yellowstone, and to Gardiner to relive my burger experience. Hopefully with no lightning.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 24, 2012 07:13AM
Quote
snorkus
The flash filled the whole windshield, the sound was unbelievable. Well, as I drove through the arch, I kept eating because it was really a great burger . I guess that I was naive and didn't know how lucky that I was that I wasn't under the arch a few seconds sooner. I wasn't aware of the danger that I had been in.

The vehicle is a partial faraday cage. You were at least better off there than if you had reached your campsite, assuming you weren't touching metal inside the Blazer.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/24/2012 07:14AM by ttilley.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 24, 2012 09:48AM
Quote
snorkus

As I start driving while eating a great burger, the sky is getting darker. I get to the ranger kiosk, show my pass and go through. About 100 yards in front of me is the Roosevelt Arch, the iconic stone arch that is inside the Northern entrance to Yellowstone. I was about 20 yards past the kiosk, when all of a sudden, lightning hits the stone arch. The flash filled the whole windshield, the sound was unbelievable. Well, as I drove through the arch, I kept eating because it was really a great burger.

This sounds like a script for a burger TV commercial, like one from Carl's Jr. (Hardee's on the East Coast and in the Midwest).

.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 24, 2012 10:51AM
Quote
plawrence
Quote
snorkus

As I start driving while eating a great burger, the sky is getting darker. I get to the ranger kiosk, show my pass and go through. About 100 yards in front of me is the Roosevelt Arch, the iconic stone arch that is inside the Northern entrance to Yellowstone. I was about 20 yards past the kiosk, when all of a sudden, lightning hits the stone arch. The flash filled the whole windshield, the sound was unbelievable. Well, as I drove through the arch, I kept eating because it was really a great burger.

This sounds like a script for a burger TV commercial, like one from Carl's Jr. (Hardee's on the East Coast and in the Midwest).

.

Not quite. It lacks gratuitous young women.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 24, 2012 12:48PM
Quote
eeek
Quote
plawrence
Quote
snorkus

As I start driving while eating a great burger, the sky is getting darker. I get to the ranger kiosk, show my pass and go through. About 100 yards in front of me is the Roosevelt Arch, the iconic stone arch that is inside the Northern entrance to Yellowstone. I was about 20 yards past the kiosk, when all of a sudden, lightning hits the stone arch. The flash filled the whole windshield, the sound was unbelievable. Well, as I drove through the arch, I kept eating because it was really a great burger.

This sounds like a script for a burger TV commercial, like one from Carl's Jr. (Hardee's on the East Coast and in the Midwest).

.

Not quite. It lacks gratuitous young women.

Alas, there was no female involved. I made the trip from Los Angeles to Wyoming, and back, by myself. And I did not look like the girl in the Carls Jr commercials.

It was also on this trip that I was sternly warned by a ranger that I should not be going on hikes by myself in Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 26, 2012 06:48PM
Quote
snorkus
It was also on this trip that I was sternly warned by a ranger that I should not be going on hikes by myself in Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Was there a special circumstance around this warning? I've twice gotten solo backpacking permits in Yellowstone (day-hiked only in Teton, but have backpacked twice in the Wind Rivers, no permits there), nobody said anything.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 27, 2012 06:56AM
Quote
ttilley
Quote
snorkus
It was also on this trip that I was sternly warned by a ranger that I should not be going on hikes by myself in Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Was there a special circumstance around this warning? I've twice gotten solo backpacking permits in Yellowstone (day-hiked only in Teton, but have backpacked twice in the Wind Rivers, no permits there), nobody said anything.

No special circumstance around the warning. I was going on day hikes only; On one of the hikes, a ranger came upon me and said that it can be very dangerous to be hiking alone due to grizzly and moose population. Perhaps he was stern because I was wearing headphones to my Walkman cassette, so I wouldn't be able to hear. I didn't question him. He gave me the warning an we both went on our way.
avatar Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT-my story
August 24, 2012 01:53PM
Quote
eeek
Quote
plawrence
Quote
snorkus

As I start driving while eating a great burger, the sky is getting darker. I get to the ranger kiosk, show my pass and go through. About 100 yards in front of me is the Roosevelt Arch, the iconic stone arch that is inside the Northern entrance to Yellowstone. I was about 20 yards past the kiosk, when all of a sudden, lightning hits the stone arch. The flash filled the whole windshield, the sound was unbelievable. Well, as I drove through the arch, I kept eating because it was really a great burger.

This sounds like a script for a burger TV commercial, like one from Carl's Jr. (Hardee's on the East Coast and in the Midwest).

Not quite. It lacks gratuitous young women.

In the commercial, she'll be the park ranger manning the ranger kiosk at the park's entrance. wink

.
Re: Struck by lightning on the JMT
August 24, 2012 08:46AM
I read the article to see what day it was. There has been t-storms around here for almost two weeks. Anyway, was surprised that it was the same day that I also got caught out in this storm. (Aug 14) (I just mention that I am surprised because the storm didn't lessen in severity in 50 miles...or more. It had lessened by the time it caught up with me again here at home.)

It was one helluva a storm. A couple of dozen lightning strikes close by, hail and pouring rain. I was near the Bishop Pass trail. By the time I reached the trail, near Saddlerock Lake, the whole trail was under water...either like a creek or ponding. My raincoat wasn't waterproof! I had no choice but to put my head down and get to the trailhead. So between Timberline Tarns and Long Lake I had to travel, feet in water every step, out in the open. That is where the closest lightning strike hit. But I figured, if it was my time...it was my time.

Obviously I made it. But I have had some lingering effects resulting from mild hypothermia from that day.
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