This past weekend saw nearly 1,000 lightning strikes within Santa Fe National Forest boundaries. Photo by Robert Chavez
SANTA FE – The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast for this week in Northern New Mexico includes afternoon and evening thunderstorms with heavy rain. This past weekend saw nearly 1,000 lightning strikes within Santa Fe National Forest boundaries. As welcome as the moisture is, the monsoon season carries risk.
Forest visitors are urged to learn about lightning and use good judgment and basic safety precautions when hiking, fishing or camping on the Santa Fe National Forest. Before any activity on the forest, make a lightning safety plan and be prepared to follow it. For detailed information and safety tips, take a look at the NWS’ Lightning Safety website.
According to the NWS, 64 percent of lightning deaths take place during leisure or recreational activities. A NWS study that looked at what victims were doing at the time lightning struck found that fishing was the most common fatal activity followed by boating, soccer and golf. To date this year, 21 Americans have died from lightning strikes, including a 17-year-old hiker on the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.
If you are on the forest, listen for thunder, watch for lightning and observe the direction of the storm’s movement. If you are not within reach of an appropriate shelter, like a building or enclosed vehicle, take note of locations that may offer protection.
Stay away from rocky outcrops, cliff edges, lone trees and bodies of water. If you are in a wooded area, seek a group of small trees surrounded by tall trees or look for dry, lower ground (while remaining mindful of flash flooding). In open space, seek lower ground and make yourself a smaller target by crouching on the balls of your feet with head down. Do not lie flat.
“We want all our visitors to make it home safely at the end of the day,” Forest Supervisor Maria T. Garcia said. “Be aware of your surroundings and always make safety your first priority. At the end of the day, it’s okay if you don’t catch one more fish or reach the top of Santa Fe Baldy.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) brochure on lightning safety is available at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/lightning/resources/lightning-safety.pdf.