Action in an electrical storm

Inland paddling
Post Reply
Mzee
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:57 pm

Action in an electrical storm

Post by Mzee »

What is the safe course of action if you are caught out in your kayak in an electrical storm
… on a lake?
… on a wide river?
… on a narrow river with overhanging trees?
… on a slalom course with wire pole carriers?

Group up, separate, stay close to someone with a metal shafted paddle, get off water, paddle well away from trees?

I paddled on regardless and enjoyed the rain but wonder if that was the safest thing to do.

Nic

User avatar
Jim Pullen
Posts: 2237
Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2004 11:21 am
Location: Darlington
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Jim Pullen »

Get the tallest person in your group to stick his paddle in the air whilst shouting "all gods are b*stards!" whilst you paddle away furiously?

*Apologies to Terry Pratchett
Done any NE/NW rivers not on the site? PM me!

User avatar
Wildswimmer Pete
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:07 pm
Location: Runcorn New Town
Has thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Wildswimmer Pete »

Mzee wrote:What is the safe course of action if you are caught out in your kayak in an electrical storm
… on a lake?
… on a wide river?
I've done some research into surviving nearby lightning, especially when immersed in water.

When lightning strikes a massive pulse of current flows away from the point of strike. The potential gradient of the current pulse near to the strike is many thousands of volts per metre. Standing on the ground can expose you to enough juice to electrocute you. If caught in the open assume the foetal position while on the ground, keep yourself as "small" as possible.

Lightning is preceded by a corona discharge from ground to cloud producing an ionised channel down which the return stroke travels. In fact there might be two or three return strokes in rapid succession. Keep away from pointed targets, including lightning arresters. They protect the building but does nothing to reduce the potentially lethal ground pulse.

In water, the energy from all but a direct strike is mostly directed past the swimmer - water offers the least resistance. However it's important the feet don't touch the bed of the lake or river. A partly submerged hemispherical human head isn't an ideal shape to initiate corona discharge, however a direct hit to a water body is just as lethal to a swimmer. I've been a lake during a t-storm with a direct hit to land about 1/4 mile away - I felt nothing.

Lakes and rivers are usually the lowest parts of the local geography so if caught by a t-storm kayaks and canoes are relatively safe places to be, but keep paddles stowed and head down. Sailing craft with fixed masts might as well display a notice "Strike Here".
Mzee wrote:… on a narrow river with overhanging trees?
Very dangerous. Trees are lightning magnets. If you're standing underneath the tree and it's struck, there're a few kV/m of ground pulse liable to fry you. Trees have a nasty habit of exploding when struck, and a bit of tree is highly likely to fall onto you.



Mzee wrote:… on a slalom course with wire pole carriers?
Don't even think about it. Go back to the clubhouse/pub and have something eat.
Mzee wrote:Group up, separate, stay close to someone with a metal shafted paddle, get off water, paddle well away from trees?
The best idea is to get off the water if at all possible, otherwise stow anything that can instigate a corona discharge, keep well away from trees, do whatever you can to offer the smallest target.
Mzee wrote:I paddled on regardless and enjoyed the rain but wonder if that was the safest thing to do.Nic
I do swim outdoors in thundery weather but it's a case of "do as I say............" ;-)

Wildswimmer Pete

NB Please forgive my grammar - it's still isn't as it should be.
Nili illegitimi carborundum

Dave Manby
Posts: 2018
Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2003 10:36 am
Location: Llangollen
Been thanked: 10 times
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Dave Manby »

Jim Pullen wrote:Get the tallest person in your group to stick his paddle in the air whilst shouting "all gods are b*stards!" whilst you paddle away furiously?

*Apologies to Terry Pratchett
Preferably the paddles should be Schlegels or other metal rimmed blades and shaft. I remember Radar holding his Schlegels up on a lake in Morocco in a thunderstorm. He was using them as a sail in the wind. The rain was so heavy that we could float the boats along the road when we got off.

User avatar
Randy Fandango
Posts: 3387
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: London/Kent/Somewhere flat and dry

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Randy Fandango »

Wildswimmer Pete wrote:Sailing craft with fixed masts might as well display a notice "Strike Here"
.
I can personally attest to the truth of this.
I was teaching sailing about 15 years ago when a storm rolled in really quickly.
A ferocious squall capsized every boat around including ours and following this I righted the boat to find a lightening storm all around.
Our boat was stuck in irons so I pushed the tiller and boom in the approved manner and - WHACK! - the mast was struck as I was holding the boom.
It blew me clean off my feet and I felt like I'd jumped in the way of a travelling lorry but was otherwise unharmed.
Not an experience I'd repeat in a hurry.
Giles

NB -- obviously I now have super-powers and spend my spare time fighting crime from my secret lair.....

SimonMW
Posts: 2199
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:39 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by SimonMW »

Also worth remembering that lighting can strike you many miles away from the edge of a thunderstorm. So just because you aren't directly underneath does not mean that you cannot be struck.
NB -- obviously I now have super-powers and spend my spare time fighting crime from my secret lair.....
Unfortunately, unbeknown to you, a lone angler was also struck by the same storm via his fishing rod, and has vowed revenge on all canoeists. Thus the ultimate showdown was set...

Green.media
Posts: 230
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:52 pm
Location: hampshire

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Green.media »

Ive been pondering this and Sea kayaking For a while, What should you/ could you do?

Your the highest object by approximately 3 ft higher with no form of cover easily accessible.

What do you do??!! or is this how pork scratchings are made?

At least I can take confort in the fact that I would defiantly be one of the hairy pork scratchings, (the best variety!)

Cheers.
Rich.

Summit to Sea
Posts: 1078
Joined: Tue May 31, 2005 3:18 pm
Location: Valley, Anglesey
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Summit to Sea »

Randy Fandango wrote:NB -- obviously I now have super-powers and spend my spare time fighting crime from my secret lair.....
Could you have a word with Barclays please, they seem to be getting away with robbing the nation.

Thanks.

User avatar
DaveBland
Posts: 3658
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:01 pm
Location: Calgary Canada
Has thanked: 4 times
Been thanked: 12 times

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by DaveBland »

Took my daughter out on a big open canadian on Lake Louise last Tuesday morning on her birthday. Got about half way to the end of the lake [ie middle] and saw a huge black lightening riddled cloud descend at the end of the lake from no-where.
I have never paddled so fast in my life.
I figured it was safest to stay close to the bank/trees so I would be away from the open and not the tallest thing.
Not sure if it was the right ting to do, but it worked all the same. Just got back as the hail storm hit.
Phew. And a memorable 8th birthday for her...
dave

User avatar
Wildswimmer Pete
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:07 pm
Location: Runcorn New Town
Has thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Wildswimmer Pete »

large-ugly-greeny wrote:Ive been pondering this and Sea kayaking For a while, What should you/ could you do?

Your the highest object by approximately 3 ft higher with no form of cover easily accessible.

What do you do??!! or is this how pork scratchings are made?

At least I can take confort in the fact that I would defiantly be one of the hairy pork scratchings, (the best variety!)

Cheers.
Rich.
Out to sea if there's a strike to the water nearby you're very likely toast but in water the ground pulse dissipates more rapidly. If in a kayak at least you don't have a mast. Basically keep your paddle stowed otherwise brandishing it could encourage a corona discharge (or if at sea,St. Elmo's Fire ;-)). Keep yourself as small as possible and keep your head as low as you can.

You have a few seconds' warning of being struck. If short-haired your scalp will tingle. As the corona becomes established you'll most likely hear a crackling or sizzling noise. If you hear this then remove yourself pronto as doing so might break the formation of the ionised channel up to the cloud down which Thor's thunderbolts are poised to strike. Snuffing that corona has become the most important job of your life.

Electricity usually follows the path of least resistance (there are always exceptions) so you need not to be the tallest object in the vicinity. Don't forget if a nearby structure is hit, the ground pulse could still toast you.

Wildswimmer Pete
Nili illegitimi carborundum

User avatar
justin-g
Posts: 2085
Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2005 12:58 pm
Location: Brizzle

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by justin-g »

Moxie, Rainey, Pete h and I got caught in a cracker on the lyn in dec - basically wtf can you do. Hope it's hitting the sides of the valley I guess. It came with an epic hail storm And pitch black in the middle of the day... One of those days when your local river becomes an expedition.
White water "rider"

Jones Chris
Posts: 429
Joined: Mon May 14, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Jones Chris »

Wildswimmer Pete wrote:
You have a few seconds' warning of being struck. If short-haired your scalp will tingle. As the corona becomes established you'll most likely hear a crackling or sizzling noise. If you hear this then remove yourself pronto as doing so might break the formation of the ionised channel up to the cloud down which Thor's thunderbolts are poised to strike. Snuffing that corona has become the most important job of your life.

Electricity usually follows the path of least resistance (there are always exceptions) so you need not to be the tallest object in the vicinity. Don't forget if a nearby structure is hit, the ground pulse could still toast you.

Wildswimmer Pete
So if this is the case and you do spot it, will a capsize - long pause - and roll back up be enough to snuff it?

User avatar
Wildswimmer Pete
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:07 pm
Location: Runcorn New Town
Has thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Wildswimmer Pete »

Jones Chris wrote: So if this is the case and you do spot it, will a capsize - long pause - and roll back up be enough to snuff it?
Hopefully - this is theoretically possible and I have suggested that swimmers dive deep to snuff the corona. It's a case of "if all else fails.............." but no-one has put it to the test. If the main stroke hits the water you've still got problems. If the stroke hits ground, even if close by, your chances are better. I've beeen swimming in Hatchmere (Delamere Forest) when lightning struck about a quarter of a mile away and I felt nothing. And of course the lake is ringed by trees.

When it comes to lightning risk, golfers are at the top of the list. Furthermore, changes in the UK weather over the past five years mean that thunderstorms have been less much likely. One reason is the lack of "Spanish Plumes" which imported hot, moist and potentially thundery air. Look out of the window: dull, damp, cold day after day after dreary day, the pattern for "summers" to come - "Forever Autumn".

Wildswimmer Pete
Nili illegitimi carborundum

SimonMW
Posts: 2199
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:39 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by SimonMW »

Furthermore, changes in the UK weather over the past five years mean that thunderstorms have been less much likely. One reason is the lack of "Spanish Plumes" which imported hot, moist and potentially thundery air. Look out of the window: dull, damp, cold day after day after dreary day, the pattern for "summers" to come - "Forever Autumn".
Not sure about that. There have been some pretty meaty storms recently, and I have noticed that the number of occurrences of supercells seems to be increasing too.

User avatar
Wildswimmer Pete
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:07 pm
Location: Runcorn New Town
Has thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Wildswimmer Pete »

SimonMW wrote: Not sure about that. There have been some pretty meaty storms recently, and I have noticed that the number of occurrences of supercells seems to be increasing too.
That's very recent and possibly tied in with the now permanent area of low pressure over the UK. The behaviour of the polar jet and its quasi-permanent position south of the UK is now the topic of much discussion in meteorological circles. Has anybody noticed the way UK summers have become increasingly cold and unsettled since 2007? Some parts of the UK saw June maxima lower than over Christmas '11.

Summer '12 was stillborn, now we just need to read its last rites.

Wildswimmer Pete
Nili illegitimi carborundum

User avatar
Randy Fandango
Posts: 3387
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: London/Kent/Somewhere flat and dry

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Randy Fandango »

Wildswimmer Pete wrote: Look out of the window: dull, damp, cold day after day after dreary day, the pattern for "summers" to come - "Forever Autumn".
That's not all bad news -- it discourages the growth of algae in our lake and keeps us open through the summer. Hurrah!
Giles

User avatar
Poke
Posts: 4884
Joined: Mon Nov 11, 2002 4:35 pm
Location: Wigan
Been thanked: 22 times
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Poke »

Wildswimmer Pete wrote:......but in water the ground pulse dissipates more rapidly...
If lightening strikes water is it still a ground pulse? :-)
Randy Fandango wrote:NB -- obviously I now have super-powers and spend my spare time fighting crime from my secret lair.....
Aah, so you're that super-hoodie chap. Any idea if they're doing a 3rd (or is it 4th) series?
Uniyaker - Uni expeditions
Team Pyranha - My adventures

User avatar
Randy Fandango
Posts: 3387
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 5:10 pm
Location: London/Kent/Somewhere flat and dry

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Randy Fandango »

Poke wrote: Aah, so you're that super-hoodie chap. Any idea if they're doing a 3rd (or is it 4th) series?
And of course it was in fact on the same lake :-)
Yep -- they were filming season 4 a few weeks ago and have a few days more filming in August.
As usual, we've been doing everything we can to appear as unofficial extras in the back of every scene :-)
Giles

cathalferris
Posts: 216
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:10 pm
Location: Limerick, Ireland
Has thanked: 2 times

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by cathalferris »

Something that is very important to note:
It's not the presence of metal that's important as to why a lightening strike may be more likely. it's the sharpness of the object.

I.e. a metal-shafted paddle is exactly the same risk as a carbon shafted paddle. Both are actually pretty good conductors, and would allow charge to build up at the ends of the paddles more quickly. A metal-rimmed paddle is probably less of a risk than a sharp-edged carbon blade as it has a larger radius - assuming of course that it was smooth.

The slalom course is a risk because there are lots of elevated sharp objects that can easily create leader strokes. Not much relevance to the cables and poles being metal.

The strokes take the path of least resistance, and as long as that resistance is lower than that of the surrounding air then it becomes a more likely pathway for the lightning strike to pass along. At least most paddlers would have wet outer layers that would be better conductors than the body.

If I remember correctly, the most likely area for lightning strike near bodies of water is within the strip of land within a few hundred metres of the shoreline, as the underlying water table near the surface allows a fast propagation of charge to areas - making it more likely for strikes to happen as the charge can build up higher and faster. If on a river - it's a very high risk situation. Paddles should be stowed or even left to drift, and the body should be tucked up pretty much in the same position as running a big drop. If possible, leave the river and stay low until you can get into a car or van with metal shell (faraday cage protection), or at least into a depression in the ground and ball up and wait for the storm cell to pass.

Risky business.

User avatar
Wildswimmer Pete
Posts: 1324
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:07 pm
Location: Runcorn New Town
Has thanked: 1 time
Contact:

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by Wildswimmer Pete »

Poke wrote: If lightening strikes water is it still a ground pulse? :-)
Yes - the pulse is still a ground pulse but the lethal effect tends to be restricted to smaller distances from the strike and the pulse dissipates much quicker. In large bodies of water and the sea, the pulse propagates around 360deg from the strike. However on land the resistivity of the ground becomes important. Unless the surrounding ground is of uniform resistivity, the ground pulse will tend to favour, say, moist clay rather than surrounding rock. This focusses the energy along certain paths.

If in a lake, the high conductance of the water shunts most of the current round a swimmer - I did work it out some time ago that the swimmer could be exposed to up to 10% of the charge. This is based on the resistivity of the human body compared with the surrounding water. Human skin is quite a good insulator under certain circumstances, and when immersed, most of a passing pulse passes round the body rather than through it. Don't try clipping 230v AC across your tits while lying in the bath - different circumstances that will be most likely result in, er, terminal consequences.

I did mention that if the water, the hemisphere formed by a human skull is the least likely to encourage corona disharge. Likewise the ball atop of a Van de Graff generator which is intended to distribute the charge evenly. Pointed surfaces concentrate the charge on the point which encourages ionisation of the surrounding air. The idea behind lightning arrestors is to encourage a corona to form the conductive channel up to the cloud, but this time to locally drain charge from the cloud which will hopefully persuade it to strike somehere else. Problem is, if the building is actually struck, you are still very much at risk from the ground pulse. Floors have a lot insulation so if inside you are at comparatively little risk from electrocution. Unfortunately when buildings are struck, bits of said building tend to come crashing through the roof and half a chimney landing on your head isn't conducive to continuing good health.

Wildswimmer Pete
Nili illegitimi carborundum

User avatar
scottdog007
Posts: 1317
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:34 pm
Location: Hertfordshire.
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: Action in an electrical storm

Post by scottdog007 »


Post Reply

Return to “Whitewater and Touring”