DENVER (CBS4) – The deaths of two people in two days from lightning strikes in Rocky Mountain National Park has prompted the reminder that nowhere outside is safe when there’s an electrical storm.
According to experts, nine out of 10 people will survive being struck by lightning.
A flat area above the tree line is the worst place to be in lightning storm, but truly there’s nowhere outside that’s completely safe from lightning.
Before the last two fatalities there have been no deaths from lightning in Rocky Mountain National Park in 14 years. The two people were in the park but in entirely different types of locations. One was above tree line where hikers were attempting to hustle back down the mountain on Friday because of the storm. Saturday’s occurred at a different but popular location.
“This is an overlook that’s right off of Trail Ridge Road — a very popular overlook — and it’s roughly at 10,800 feet,” park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said.
Richard Kithil runs the Lightning Safety Institute.
“No place outside is safe. We are right now, in July, at the peak of the lightning season,” Kithil said.
He says there’s a very simple formula for hiking in the mountains.
“You want to be off the high ground, down into the trees. Or better, near the trail head. Or better than that, in your car around 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. at the latest,” Kithil said.
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If caught, he says people are safer in a cluster or trees rather than standing near just one tree. And they’re safer standing by alone instead of a big group. Crouch down and avoid being the tallest object, but do not lie down on the ground.
When hearing thunder, assume lightning is very near and take cover.
Storms in Colorado happen quickly, unexpectedly, and people should always be on high alert.
Golf courses are another area that can be dangerous because they are often wide open.