Thunder Roars, Head Indoors
I heard the title of this blog just recently and it makes sense. With the increasing intensity of storms in our neck of the woods it is good advice, except when you’re out in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
I thought of this while camping with our family a couple of weeks ago. Josh and I were out exploring a campsite near ours when the sky started to get dark. We should have gotten into our canoe and headed back immediately but we didn’t. The sky turned black, raindrops started to fall and we could hear thunder rumbling overhead as we paddled quickly. Josh wasn’t concerned but I mentioned my fear of waves picking up and tossing the dog out of the canoe. At the dog’s age I wasn’t sure he would be able to stay afloat or swim. Josh commented it wasn’t wavy but before we reached our campsite the waves were rolling. The weather can change quickly and one must keep an eye on it and respect it especially when you’re in the BWCAW.
There’s a couple of ways to determine how at risk you are from lightning. One is the 30 seconds/30 minutes rule. If the sound of thunder comes less than 30 seconds after the flash of lightning you need to seek shelter. Remain in the shelter for 30 minutes after you’ve heard the last thunder. If you see a flash of lightning count the seconds before you hear the sound of thunder. Divide this number by 5 to give you the rough distance in miles. If it’s six miles or less you’re in the lightning strike zone.
Stay away from all metal and remove all metal from your body including frame packs, belts, jewelry and even zippers.
If you’re outdoors you want to be the lowest object around you. You want to position yourself 50-100 feet from the nearest person and get into a crouching position on the balls of your feet with your feet close together. If you have a life vest or seat cushion then place it on the ground, squat low, hug your knees into your body, get as small as you can, close your eyes and cover your ears.
7/27 UPDATE: The girl scout group that encountered severe weather on Knife Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Friday night is safe and has returned to an Ely-area canoe base Saturday morning, according to the St. Louis County Rescue Squad.
Captain Rick Slaten said the group of nine scouts experienced a lightning strike Friday night.
While most of the girls were checked out on scene by first responders and cleared by 11 p.m. Friday, two girls were taken to a nearby hospital early Saturday morning and have since been released.
Nancy McMullen, director of communications for the Girl Scouts, said that as of around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the Girl Scouts were deciding whether they would continue their trip or travel back home to the Chicago area.
The group, from Chicago, was following a pre-planned route and they were never lost, according to McMullen,
The St. Louis County Rescue Squad successfully reached a group of Girl Scouts that encountered severe weather on Knife Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Friday night, according to authorities.
Captain Rick Slaten with the St. Louis County Rescue Squad said though the group of nine scouts experienced a lightning strike that hit the ground, all involved were “awake, alert, and able to move without assistance” as of 11 p.m.
The group, from Chicago, was following a pre-planned route and they were never lost, according to Nancy McMullen, director of communications for the Girl Scouts.
“The lead guide called in the lightning strike per protocol, informed authorities of their exact location per the planned route, and said they believed that lightning ‘struck the ground and they might have experienced ground current,’” McMullen said.
The St. Louis County Rescue Squad said they would try to evacuate the girls using canoes.
Lake County Rescue, Sheriff’s Deputies, the Minnesota DNR, Minnesota HSEM, Northern Tier, 911 Dispatchers, the Minnesota State Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, and many others were involved in the rescue.
Slaten said they the rescue squad opened the Pike Lake Emergency Operations Center to monitor the effort.
A rescue operation is currently under way in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for a group of Girl Scouts from Chicago whose campsite on Knife Lake was struck by lightning in the severe storm that rolled through the region around 8 p.m. on Friday, July 26.
The call for assistance after the lightning strike reported six people with after-effects of a lightning strike, with two parties apparently suffering acute symptoms. It is believed there are nine people in the group.
Lake and St. Louis counties, along with the U.S. Border Patrol, mobilized and have ground and paddle teams on route to the campsite. As of 1:50 a.m., responders had reached the Birch Lake portage.
They are being assisted by the Minnesota State Patrol, which has deployed a fixed wing aircraft to help pinpoint the group’s position. It was estimated that it would take two to three hours to paddle to the Girl Scout location. Rescue efforts are hampered by darkness and winds.
The Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin-Lakes and Pines issued a statement on its Facebook page, advising that no one in the group was struck by lightning and no one was ever in critical condition. According to the Girl Scout post, “the lead guide called in the lightning strike, per protocol, informed authorities of their exact location per the planned route and said ‘they believe that lightning struck the grund and they might have experienced ground current.'”
The Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin-Lakes and Pines also states that staff has been working with local authorities and that the group has been “in constant contact with medical personnel the entire time.” According to the Girl Scout organization, as of 11:08 p.m., an EMT was with the group.