On average Colorado gets over 500,000 cloud to ground lightning strikes every year and about 10 people die from lightning strikes in Colorado every year. At least half of fatal strikes occur in predictably hazardous settings such as on mountaintops, on large bodies of open water or while standing under a lone tree.
As so many of us here are outdoor enthusiasts who recreate and work in potentially hazardous areas I think it is worthwhile to review a few aspects of lightning safety. Prevention is best: Check the weather and don’t be unwilling to call off a planned activity.
If you hear thunder you could be struck. If you are above tree line find the lowest point of an open area and move there quickly. Move away from any fencing or power lines. Spread out from anyone in your group by 50 feet or more and assume the “lightening position” crouched down on the balls of your feet making as little contact with the ground as possible. Avoid buildings and caves with exposed openings, and avoid water – even puddles and rain run-off. If you are below tree line and can shelter in a cluster of smaller trees this is safer than sheltering under a large lone tree or the taller trees.
NOLS has a great Myth Busting video on lightning safety in the backcountry:
The National Weather Service has some great information too. Test your lightening IQ against the Myths and Facts Page or learn more Lightning Science at