Lightning is one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular and dangerous events. Pop Up Campers are not generally safe in a lightning storm. There are ways to reduce your risk if you are caught in a lightning storm. Being safe in any dangerous situation is a large part dependent on knowing “Why” the situation is dangerous.
The related danger decreases if your Pop-Up Camper is NOT set up near metal structures, power lines, or other objects that would attract lightning. Electrical currents, shock waves, and related fire, explosions, or falling objects all play a part in increasing the level of danger to you and your Pop-Up Camper.
we will explore the risk of lightning and what you can do to avoid the risk or at the very least understand how to minimize the risk.
Understanding The Warning Signs Of Bad Weather Coming
You won’t be able to rely on a robot stating, “Danger Will Robinson”, but look for the sudden changes in weather that might indicate potential lightning. You may be able to feel it in your bones with sudden temperature drops and increases in humidity. Lightning always happens in thunderstorms.
Bright white clouds that rapidly grow taller indicate a storm is in the making. Skies will darken and the wind will increase. You will start to hear thunder, which is created by lightning. Yes, there is also the sure-fire sign of lightning when you find out that there is a severe thunderstorm warning!
Staying Connected & Alert To Dangers Lurking
Your mobile phone with its ability to view and receive weather alerts is good to have. Emergency service agencies and mobile phone carriers have taken great steps to ensure Emergency Notifications go out to mobile phones. Additionally, there are social media feeds that you can subscribe to for other non-emergency weather-related information.
A shortwave radio can also be your lifeline to receiving weather alerts. Portable radios are available that receive shortwave and AM/FM stations. Battery power, hand crank, and even small solar panel charging solutions should be considered for dry camping to keep your devices connected.
What To Do If You Are Caught In A Lighting Storm In Your Pop Up Camper
For whatever the reason, if you are caught in a lightning storm find a safe location to ride out the storm. Inside a building, away from windows, electrical appliances, outlets, and plumbing. Now considering the title of this article, these buildings may not be available, but your metal roof, fully enclosed vehicle is a safe place.
Many vehicles struck by lightning have some damage, but the metal body of the vehicle works well to protect the occupants. Find the best location you can avoid higher elevations, tall isolated trees or poles, wide-open areas, water, and unprotected open buildings. The camp kitchen or picnic area shelter might look attractive, but it provides shelter from the rain, not the lightning. What about under the trees to stay out of the rain?
Again, not so safe from lightning. If you are with a group, spread out by at least 15-20 feet. If lightning strikes cause injury to one, others might not be affected and will be there to render first aid. Lightning storms may provide a sign of an imminent strike. Hair raising, skin tingling, metal objects vibrating, or a crackling sound are all possibilities. If you are out in the open, immediately put your feet together, squat down, tuck your head, and cover your ears.
Unsafe Buildings Include
Open buildings are not safe from lightning. Other buildings/structures include metal buildings, bleachers, and small buildings like sheds and outhouses. To really be safe, the building needs to be substantial and would have electrical wiring and plumbing.
We all may think the danger is just from being directly struck by lightning, but in reality, it is the least common cause of injury or death. Lightning heading for the ground typically strikes an object like a tree or pole and then the resulting current travels through the ground until it dissipates.
You may be injured by this ground current, a side flash, upward leaders of lightning, or contact with an object that has been struck by lightning. In all cases, distance from the lightning strike is your friend. The safe distance cannot be adequately summarized since it is a complex calculation depending on a multitude of factors including the voltage of strike, distribution, the electrical resistivity of the object struck, and surrounding terrain.
When the lightning travels through the ground it can enter your body and then leave an area that has contact with a different voltage. This explains the innate danger to horses and cattle where the lightning may travel through the entire length of their body as it enters at one end and leaves at the other. This also explains why you would keep squatting with only your feet close together to avoid lightning dangers.
A tree struck by lightning could result in the lightning leaving the tree partway down and hitting a person standing nearby. The side flash is a different or additional path the lightning takes to the ground. The side flash could be to any type of object that will give the lightning an electrical path to the ground.
Contact (With An Object Struck By Lightning)
Using the tree as the same example, but could also be fencing, tall pole, building, or faucet, lightning can travel through the object and continue into the person that is contacting the object.
Upward leaders are currents of positive charge growing upward from the ground or elevated objects. A downward strike can meet an upward leader forming a conductive path. The upward leaders have a lower charge than the downward strike but can still cause injury or death.
Direct contact with the lightning strike. As mentioned, this is the least frequent occurrence.
This is caused by a shock wave on the ground and can throw a person up to 10 feet away, causing injury. It can also occur from fire, explosions, and falling objects that the lightning causes.