A camping trip requires a lot of planning and preparation, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Thunderstorms are common throughout parts of Ontario from late April to early October. No one plans for a storm to hit during their camping trip, but it’s important to know what to do if a storm hits.
Here’s what you need to know to stay safe, no matter the weather:
Check the forecast
The first thing you should do is make sure you check the weather forecast before leaving home.
Remember: it is important check the forecast for the local park areanot your hometown forecast.
Not all storms are unpredictable, and if the forecast calls for inclement weather, you may want to reconsider your plans.
If you’re heading out into the countryside, stay home if you see weather warnings such as high winds, flooding or thunderstorms.
When in a camp
There are a few ways to follow good safety measures if a storm hits your campsite.
When you arrive, make sure you have a lightning safety plan for your group. Be aware of your surroundings and seek shelter. You will need a safe place to wait out the storm.
As the saying goes: “When the thunder roars, come inside.”
If you are staying in a tent or trailer tent, your safest option is your hardtop vehicle. If you take shelter in a vehicle during a storm, avoid touching any metal objects inside and keep the windows closed.
Do not take shelter in a picnic shelter or outhouse, as these structures do not have a method of grounding lightning. You should also avoid taking shelter near the tallest object in your area or objects that conduct an electrical charge. Tall objects, such as tall trees, poles, fences, or other equipment, can attract lightning.
When in the field
If you are staying in the countryside, you may not have shelter options immediately available.
Instead, wait out the storm deep in a thick stand of trees. If there are no trees or only solitary trees nearby, look for the lowest area. Get down and cover your head.
Avoid trees with large trunks if lightning strikes nearby. Open areas more than 100 m wide should also be avoided.
If you are in the water
A storm is no time for water activities. Water can be unpredictable and is conductive, so you will be safer on land until the storm passes.
If you are swimming, get out of the water immediately after you see lightning or hear thunder.
If you’re rowing or boating, head to shore in case the weather hits.
Water levels may be higher after a storm. Be aware of streams and rivers that may experience flash flooding during a severe storm. If flash flooding occurs, move to higher ground. Never cross flooded streams or rivers, as there may be strong undercurrents.
When the thunder roars…
Take cover immediately if you hear thunder.
Once in a safe place, you can calculate the distance of the lightning strike. Count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder. Divide the seconds by three to determine the distance in kilometers.
Even if you feel the storm has passed, you should maintain lightning safety precautions during 30 minutes after the last lightning or the last thunder.
In an emergency
In an emergency, always call 911 or local emergency services.
Please remember that cell service may be limited in some areas. It’s never a bad idea to have a satellite phone or SPOT unit available.
Always remember that your safety is the most important part of any outdoor adventure. Don’t be afraid to return or return home if you don’t feel prepared for the weather.
Visit the Canadian Red Cross either Environment and climate change Canada for more information on storm safety.