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Sunrise 4 15 24
PinYour Wyoming Sunrise: Monday, April 15, 2024

Today's Wyoming sunrise was captured by Gary Lear in Cody, Wyoming.

Photo by Gary Lear

Today's question to Don Day

Ken Wooley of Colstrip, Montana
What approach would you take for alerting you to nearby lightning?
Don Day
This is a good question as we are now entering the thunderstorm season. Lightning poses very serious risk of death and injury in the Rocky Mountain West and High Plains. This region's high frequency of thunderstorms combined with our high peaks and ridges means westerners at high risk of being impacted by a lightning strike. Lightning DOES NOT follow many rules, you should have deep respect for its dangers and its unpredictability. I believe that lightning risk should taken more seriously in this part of the USA as our outdoor-driven lifestyles (both work and recreation) put us at a higher risk. While the odds of being struck by lightning is 1 in 1,222,000, the USA averages 43 deaths per year from lightning strikes. The four states with the most lightning-related fatalities are Florida, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina and Alabama. While Wyoming and other Rocky Mountain states are not in the top tier of the statistics, that does not mean that lightning risk is low. In fact, many of the mountain west states and plains states report lightning deaths and injuries every year. The higher populated states where thunderstorms are most common (ie, Florida...think of flat terrain and lots of golf courses and beaches, Texas, lots of people and lots of thunderstorms, etc.) have the higher numbers of deaths/injuries. Therefore, don't look too far into the statistics to assess risk. Below are several tips to alert yourself to possible nearby lightning here in the west, the best resource for lightning safety is listed in the link below. I strongly urge everyone to print out these safety rules from the link and share with family and friends, print them out and put in your backpack, truck, etc. 1.) Stay informed...know the forecast and heighten your senses during the time of year when thunderstorms are most common (spring to early fall). 2.) The majority of thunderstorms in this part of the USA occur early afternoon through late evening, many times starting over the mountains first.. Avoid that time of day of being outdoors if thunderstorms are in the forecast. For example, the time to climb the summit of Medicine Bow Peak, Grand Teton, Cloud Peak, etc., is not at noon or 1 p.m. (take advantage of the mornings for your mountain hike). 3.) There are several personal lightning detectors available for purchase and other systems for businesses, check them outline. 4.) There are numerous apps (ie, Lightning Pro) for your smartphone that are a great resource for tracking thunderstorms and lightning, but keep in mind there cannot accurately predict where a lightning strike will occur. 5.) Check https://www.lightningmaps.org/ to find areas of lightning activity. Link to Lightning Safety PDF: https://www.weather.gov/media/owlie/backcountry_lightning.pdf
DD

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