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Lightning

GlennJ

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Planned Camino: Portuguese (April-May 2024)
Much has been spoken in Camino forums about how and what to pack for rain on the Camino. But I don’t see much sharing on protecting oneself against lightning.

What do pilgrims do when they chance into an electrical storm with bolts of lightning crashing to the ground, especially when they’re already far out in open country with no shelter in sight?

Unlike rain, lightning kills and is not to be taken lightly (no pun intended).

This scenario was played out in the book I’m reading at the moment titled, To The Field Of Stars, by priest pilgrim Kevin A. Codd, where he describes a storm he encountered between Astorga and Rabanal during his own pilgrimage back in August 2003.

In his account, he admits being terrified at the thought of being roasted by the lightning and began praying to Saint James, who apparently was known in the Gospel as one of the “Sons of Thunder”.

He writes:

“I don’t suppose many will believe this, but it is the absolute, factual, meteorological truth: at this very moment, the massive storm begins ever so slowly to divide into two cells one drifting to the south, and the other sliding ever so slowly away to the north … I am still being rained upon, but the sky directly above me is no longer the ash-gray of death. There is lightning to the north and lightning to the south, but I and the others are walking between those strikes, far from dry shod, but we are safely walking between those strikes”.​

Well, I suppose prayers, faith and miracles can indeed keep one safe, but I’d just like to hear the experiences of those who have walked through an electrical storm such as this with bolts landing in their midst. What did you do to keep safe, if at all?
 
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When hearing thunder, the first thing to do is to leave the metal walking pole far away from humans (it is specially dangerous to carry them on backpack when there are risks of lightning).
Second things to do: avoiding to stay under an isolated tree or near a tall building (relay antenna for example).
Notice that inside a vehicle there is no risks (Faraday cage)
 
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On September 2nd there was a terrific thunderstorm on the eastern side of the Camino Frances. A topic of conversation along the Way thereafter, exchanging experiences. I had spent the night in Navarrete and was slightly later leaving than usual. So when the storm began I was still within the village. I tucked under an eave with my back to the hail and rain. The thunder and lightning rolled around and it was very scary. I decided to make my way back to a cafe but the rain pouring down the streets formed a torrent and on reaching a deeper eave I just tucked in again and counted the seconds between the thunder and lightning. I had on an Altus poncho which kept me dry. Just my feet and lower legs were soaked. Once the lightning was more than 5 miles away and didn't seem to be coming back I set off. The path was very muddy with a lot of flooded and washed out sections. The rain continued for most of the day but the lightning did not come back. Most of the people we met later had taken buses or taxis. Some pilgrims caught out near a road ha been given lifts by locals. Quite a few had been taken into Spanish homes to shelter. I'm not sure what I would have been done if caught further down the path. Probably crouch down and become as low as I could. A pilgrim told me he had thrown his sticks away and laid flat on the ground. In fact the lightning I observed was mostly horizontal, between the clouds. But not all! Some days later I was shown a video of some Korean Pilgrims trying to wade through a stream of very fast flowing muddy flood water. They said that one young woman had fallen over doing this and her pack meant she couldn't turn over and she was face down. Fortunately a quick thinking pilgrim saw and grabbed her and helped her become upright.

The biggest problem, I think, is that we are so programmed to keep walking forwards on the Camino. I always started early. In retrospect I could easily have stayed in a cafe for an hour or two. I'd seen a forecast but thought the lightning could miss my path. Walking in the rain is something I accept on the Camino. Thunder storms need serious attention.
 
Something I forgot to mention. As the rain eased in Navarrete and it was possible the see the streets, then I could see a lot of stone and rocks. The rain pouring off the roofs and gutters was a force to be reckoned with! Bits of stone could have come from the old roofs. The sheer force of the water is very dangerous. To be hit on the head with heavy debris was a risk I hadn't thought about when I tried to go back to the cafe. But I'm glad I found some level of shelter.
 
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I was caught out in a storm this past June on the Camino Viejo. There were storm warnings issued that day for later in the afternoon. I left early and my goal was to get to my destination before the storms set in. I wasn't fast enough!

After coming through a canyon, I had no cell coverage and was painfully close to my destination, a rural house I had reserved ahead so they knew I was coming. The landscape opened up and just a few isolated trees around. It was heavy rain and when I saw lightning strike the ground ahead of me - not particularly close but close enough to get the adrenaline going - I was worried. Then the hail came, marble sized, so I ended up getting under a patch of bushes, crouching down and throwing my pole away from me. I stayed there until the storm passed. I practically ran to the casa rural after that as I could see more storms rolling in.
IMG_20230619_154023.jpg
There were more storm warnings for the next day. My host offered to drive me to the next town and I took him up on that offer. Lesson learned!
 
This guidance from the American Hiking Society
https://americanhiking.org/resources/lightning-safety
You want to spread out the group, crouch down on the balls of your feet, lower your head and cover your ears.

Lightning is an unpredictable beast, and will fork in multiple directions as it nears the ground. At our golf tournaments here, where there are thousands of people outside, there are stringent protocols for evacuating to shelter as soon as thunder is heard, and remaining sheltered until 30 min after last thunder.
 
Probably crouch down and become as low as I could.
I experienced a storm with my daughters on the Salvador with lighting all around and the rain pelting down. We were in the middle of a meadow and applied what I had learned from a discussion on French tv after there had been a terrible accident in a Paris park - the children and parents of a birthday party had taken shelter under a tree and were struck by lightning. We were told to crouch down into a “boule” at a few metres distance from each other. My problem was afterwards, trying to “unboule” myself without taking my pack off my back in the pouring rain!

You beat me to it, Kitsambler!
 
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We were told to crouch down into a “boule” at a few metres distance from each other. My problem was afterwards, trying to “unboule” myself without taking my pack off my back in the pouring rain!
I'm envisioning this comical sounding scenario, but at least a good thing you were not on your back.😅
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
On September 2nd there was a terrific thunderstorm on the eastern side of the Camino Frances. A topic of conversation along the Way thereafter, exchanging experiences. I had spent the night in Navarrete and was slightly later leaving than usual. So when the storm began I was still within the village. I tucked under an eave with my back to the hail and rain. The thunder and lightning rolled around and it was very scary. I decided to make my way back to a cafe but the rain pouring down the streets formed a torrent and on reaching a deeper eave I just tucked in again and counted the seconds between the thunder and lightning. I had on an Altus poncho which kept me dry. Just my feet and lower legs were soaked. Once the lightning was more than 5 miles away and didn't seem to be coming back I set off. The path was very muddy with a lot of flooded and washed out sections. The rain continued for most of the day but the lightning did not come back. Most of the people we met later had taken buses or taxis. Some pilgrims caught out near a road ha been given lifts by locals. Quite a few had been taken into Spanish homes to shelter. I'm not sure what I would have been done if caught further down the path. Probably crouch down and become as low as I could. A pilgrim told me he had thrown his sticks away and laid flat on the ground. In fact the lightning I observed was mostly horizontal, between the clouds. But not all! Some days later I was shown a video of some Korean Pilgrims trying to wade through a stream of very fast flowing muddy flood water. They said that one young woman had fallen over doing this and her pack meant she couldn't turn over and she was face down. Fortunately a quick thinking pilgrim saw and grabbed her and helped her become upright.

The biggest problem, I think, is that we are so programmed to keep walking forwards on the Camino. I always started early. In retrospect I could easily have stayed in a cafe for an hour or two. I'd seen a forecast but thought the lightning could miss my path. Walking in the rain is something I accept on the Camino. Thunder storms need serious attention.
Having left very early, I was right n the middle of that Sept 2nd storm up in the hills and it was very scary - so much water and rushing "rivers" with no place to shelter. There was no choice but to keep moving.
 
Lightning risk on a Camino has never crossed my mind until now.

I’d probably adapt advice I was given when climbing in the alps -‘give your ice axe to a friend’
That is when a wooden staff would be the better option if caught in a Camino storm...no need to pass it on to someone, or toss it aside.😅

Btw, in spite of the jokes, I think this is a very good thread the OP started and I have learned a few safety tips I didn't know before.👍
 
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Much has been spoken in Camino forums about how and what to pack for rain on the Camino. But I don’t see much sharing on protecting oneself against lightning.

What do pilgrims do when they chance into an electrical storm with bolts of lightning crashing to the ground, especially when they’re already far out in open country with no shelter in sight?

Unlike rain, lightning kills and is not to be taken lightly (no pun intended).

This scenario was played out in the book I’m reading at the moment titled, To The Field Of Stars, by priest pilgrim Kevin A. Codd, where he describes a storm he encountered between Astorga and Rabanal during his own pilgrimage back in August 2003.

In his account, he admits being terrified at the thought of being roasted by the lightning and began praying to Saint James, who apparently was known in the Gospel as one of the “Sons of Thunder”.

He writes:

“I don’t suppose many will believe this, but it is the absolute, factual, meteorological truth: at this very moment, the massive storm begins ever so slowly to divide into two cells one drifting to the south, and the other sliding ever so slowly away to the north … I am still being rained upon, but the sky directly above me is no longer the ash-gray of death. There is lightning to the north and lightning to the south, but I and the others are walking between those strikes, far from dry shod, but we are safely walking between those strikes”.​

Well, I suppose prayers, faith and miracles can indeed keep one safe, but I’d just like to hear the experiences of those who have walked through an electrical storm such as this with bolts landing in their midst. What did you do to keep safe, if at all?
What is the difference, could have not happen walking in your own yard. I would say don't stand under a tree.
 
That is when a wooden staff would be the better option if caught in a Camino storm...no need to pass it on to someone, or toss it aside.😅

Btw, in spite of the jokes, I think this is a very good thread the OP started and I have learned a few safety tips I didn't know before.👍
unfortunately a friend of mine was involved in rescuing a couple of guys caught in mountains by lightening. No marks on poles and ice axes - simply up through one foot and exit through the head. Utterly fried internally and very dead. Not to be toyed with.
the advice above is as much as you can really do staying away from high places and tall strictures natural or not. You are safe inside a car.
 
Crouch or sit on the ground, ideally on top of an insulating material such as a rucksack or sleeping mat. Put your hands on your knees rather than touching the ground. Minimise contact with the ground. Although they don’t significantly increase the risk of attracting a strike, it’s wise to lay metal items, like walking poles, aside until the storm passes. Stay clear of metal fences. If you are in a group, keep a space between you and others.
 
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Lightning risk on a Camino has never crossed my mind until now.
The pilgrims' office in SJPdP said there was a risk of lightning on the day we started. We took the Valcarlos route that day.

Backpacking in Utah we camped on the other side of a pass from an area where another hiker was killed by lightning the week before. The next day we were in and back from there. Gorgeous area but very creepy that day.
 
I have written previously about my literally hair-rising near demise atop the "Sierra Cuchillo"/Busdongo part of the San Salvador. We were standing in a notch atop a mountain, fully exposed, and when the entire world lit up and roared at once, I bolted! I ran straight down the face of the mountain to the next flat place I could make out, bushwhacking, doing anything to get the hell off that peak!
Piers, my utterly urbane English walking friend, stood up there in the midst of it all, his poncho flying in the gale, laughing like a maniac. When things calmed down he ambled to where I was and asked me what all the excitement was about.
 
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This older post is helpful:

[IMG alt="Rodrigo Cerqueira"]https://caminoforum-4df7.kxcdn.com/data/avatars/m/66/66796.jpg?1487338287[/IMG]

Rodrigo Cerqueira

Active Member​

There is no good way to approach a thunderstorm. The matter is so serious that is serves as basis to the film "The Way", about the Caminho of Santiago. The best way to deal with phenomena that you cannot control is to previously prepare yourself to face them.

+info: https://www.caminho.com.pt/trovoada?lang=en

trovoada.jpg
 
Personally I absolutely loved the late afternoon thunderstorms I had almost daily last spring. Reminded me of the thunderstorms you get in the prairies in Canada. I looked forward to them very much.

I don't spend much time worrying about getting hit by lightning. Perhaps I should be more concerned. But that said, how many pilgrims have been hit by lightning in the past? It may have happened, but seems to be pretty rare. Loads of stories of people being caught out in severe thunderstorms, but I haven't found any instances of a pilgrim actually being hit.
 
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Just to chime in... the optimal position is not under a tree, and in a low squat, with just your ( hopefully rubber) heels actually contacting the ground. For preference, hands over the ears...if there is a strike nearby, it'll be * really* loud.

Whether one blames climate change or not, thunderstorms such as those in the US Midwest are more common in Europe now than they were. Learn the signs of a difference between a rainstorm and a thunderstorm. it's not likely to be *common* on Camino, but it can happen.
 
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Well, I suppose prayers, faith and miracles can indeed keep one safe, but I’d just like to hear the experiences of those who have walked through an electrical storm such as this with bolts landing in their midst. What did you do to keep safe, if at all?
It seems to me that this imagining of what Kevin Codd was describing might not be quite as the events actually occurred. I don't imagine that these were lightning strikes that were hitting the ground metres away, or even perhaps 10s or 100s of metres from him. But then, I wasn't there, and what I might imagine were storm cells moving a kilometre or two to the north or south might have been much closer.

Were a thunderstorm, as distinct from a rain storm, to get that close, my priority would be to seek the safest shelter possible. The graphic published above by @John Gilliland is an excellent summary of what I understand to be the rough hierarchy of safe places - enclosed shelters and vehicles, followed by the lowest ground one can find. If in a group, separate as much as possible from each other and from possible conductors like walking poles, metal and otherwise. The safe position is as low as possible with as small as possible contact area with the ground. Crouch with your feet and knees together and protect your eyes and ears - any strike close will be both loud and bright.

If there is a lightning strike, check everyone is okay. People close to the strike might be temporarily deafened, and you will need to scurry over to them if you are prepared to move in order to assist them. Clearly there is a tension here between the risk of another strike and needing to quickly administer first aid and arrange for evacuation if anyone who has been injured.

I have walked when thunderstorms have been forecast. The first time on the Camino, when it became clear I was walking into one, I detoured to San Bol, which had been opened for the night. Nothing since has come quite so close.

ps standing or crouching with your feet and knees together is important. If your feet are even a short distance apart, the electrical ground current close to the strike will be quite high, and result in a significant voltage difference in even a short distance. This will be enough to make your feet, legs and torso an alternative path for that current if your feet are apart, with the result that someone with their feet apart could suffer severe electrical burns from the current that passes through their body.
 
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If on the Camino and unable to shelter quickly, get as low as possible. That means laying flat on the ground, if needed, like on the Meseta
Don't lay flat on the ground.

Here's what the CDC in the US says

If you are caught outside with no safe shelter nearby, the following actions might reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:

Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.

Never lie flat on the ground.

Crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground.
Never shelter under an isolated tree. If you are in a forest, shelter near lower trees.

Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills).
Separate from others. If you are in a group during a thunderstorm, separate from each other. This will reduce the number of injuries if lightning strikes the ground.
 
ps standing with your feet together is important. If your feet are even a short distance apart, the electrical ground current close to the strike will be quite high, and result in a significant voltage difference in even a short distance. This will be enough to make your feet, legs and torso an alternative path for that current if your feet are apart, with the result that someone with their feet apart could suffer severe electrical burns from the current that passes through their body.
Thanks Doug, this saved me some writing. I wanted to point out the keeping your knees together during your squat is a help too. You want to prevent the easiest path for a current to be through your organs, most importantly through your brain and heart. So be careful double poling and wearing aluminum foil hats.

From CDC via @trecile: If you are in a group during a thunderstorm, separate from each other. This will reduce the number of injuries if lightning strikes the ground.

And someone may be able to do first aid on the rest.
 
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Thanks Doug, this saved me some writing. I wanted to point out the keeping your knees together during your squat is a help too. You want to prevent the easiest path for a current to be through your organs, most importantly through your brain and heart. So be careful double poling and wearing aluminum foil hats.



And someone may be able to do first aid on the rest.
Thx. I have edited my earlier comments to reflect keeping your knees together as well as your feet.
 
Much has been spoken in Camino forums about how and what to pack for rain on the Camino. But I don’t see much sharing on protecting oneself against lightning.

What do pilgrims do when they chance into an electrical storm with bolts of lightning crashing to the ground, especially when they’re already far out in open country with no shelter in sight?

Unlike rain, lightning kills and is not to be taken lightly (no pun intended).

This scenario was played out in the book I’m reading at the moment titled, To The Field Of Stars, by priest pilgrim Kevin A. Codd, where he describes a storm he encountered between Astorga and Rabanal during his own pilgrimage back in August 2003.

In his account, he admits being terrified at the thought of being roasted by the lightning and began praying to Saint James, who apparently was known in the Gospel as one of the “Sons of Thunder”.

He writes:

“I don’t suppose many will believe this, but it is the absolute, factual, meteorological truth: at this very moment, the massive storm begins ever so slowly to divide into two cells one drifting to the south, and the other sliding ever so slowly away to the north … I am still being rained upon, but the sky directly above me is no longer the ash-gray of death. There is lightning to the north and lightning to the south, but I and the others are walking between those strikes, far from dry shod, but we are safely walking between those strikes”.​

Well, I suppose prayers, faith and miracles can indeed keep one safe, but I’d just like to hear the experiences of those who have walked through an electrical storm such as this with bolts landing in their midst. What did you do to keep safe, if at all?
From my 1st Camino to my 4th and not last I have used a Lightning App which warns me if Lightning is a possibility at anytime walking .
As an Aussie and a golfer I am well aware of afternoon storms here and very nervous about being caught in the middle of nowhere in a storm .
 
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Thanks Doug, this saved me some writing. I wanted to point out the keeping your knees together during your squat is a help too. You want to prevent the easiest path for a current to be through your organs, most importantly through your brain and heart. So be careful double poling and wearing aluminum foil hats.



And someone may be able to do first aid on the rest.
Who would wear such a hat?🤔 I used to know how to fold newspapers to make a sailor's hat, but...
 
Thank you, every day is a school day.
I am at the age of de-cluttering, so you won't see me wearing one any time soon. 😇
Apart from which, decomposing said material is a lengthy process.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Let me tell you about lightning. Take this with a grain of..a spoon of salt..dont do it.
K?
I shoot lightning with my old Canon Camera and found...a few things.
1.cloud to cloud lightning usually stays that way.
It hisses as it burns through the air above you..like a flock of birds..and really doesnt light up daylight.
The higher, the better, the further,the better..for photos.
Lighting bolts will sometimes twist clockwise and fork...northern hemisphere? As they emerge straight in front of you.
Lightning rises

Cloud to ground..thats where the fun is.
It knocks stuff over
It feels like a bee the size of a poodle stung you..the closest analog iv found is a stress test where they hit you with epinephrine and jack you to your max heart rate...it hurts a little like that.
Your blind for a bit
You cant hear
Your equipment wont like it, it will throw a code that means its scared,angry and bricked...
Your body feels like you were in a auto wreck.
Synopsis.
Cloud to cloud you find shelter at a good pace..but mostly harmless
Cloud to ground.
Dont mess around.get into shelter .

Which leads to part 2
a person called me up scared to death because of a storm,noises etc.
So on goes my duster and went out in a high lightning count..10s of seconds between bolts...storm..strobe light storms.
Very bad.

2 km walking in a very heavy thunderstorm.
It can be done
You will not realise your humanity as so small, fragile and significant until your facing every fear in your head at once.
Limbs falling
Inches of rain per hour

But men have to do man stuff

I shoot cloud to cloud lightning
I get under shelter or in a car for cloud to ground..depending how many km away from me they are dropping.
Ive done it for years.
You develop a sense of the rhythim,the pace of the storm and learn to ride.

These are my experiences alone.
Ive been in some very nasty lightning and its terrifying to the soul.
these days i prefer days like this
 

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I have used a Lightning App which warns me if Lightning is a possibility at anytime walking
That’s interesting… an app dedicated to lightning? Which one in particular? Do you find it any help?
I went into my phone App Store and found a couple such apps … Lightning Alarm and Lightning Tracker among them. Not sure how good these are.
 
Whether you believe this or not, I don't care.

My own lightning strike story is from my first mostly failed but nevertheless completed Camino in 1993.

Three of us from Paris started at Logroño, then were joined by one from Normandy, and one he fell in love with a lovely peregrina from Germany.

Prior to starting ; one of my friends from Paris, and the one who got me interested in all of this in the first place, proposed a pact whereby we should encourage each other in case of discouragement. So, of course, we had our discouragement on the exact same day, between Astorga and Rabanal.

And instead of continuing (though I did end up finishing after a pause on that 1993, and she ended up walking from Le Puy to Santiago a couple of years later), we resolved to hitch-hike back to France.

In the exact instant when I dropped my pack on the ground, lightning struck the nearest telephone pole, about 10 metres away.

We thought -- well, that's weird, resolved to carry on : then a second lightning strike occurred onto the exact same pole.
 
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I've had a good chuckle at this thread! To be struck by lightning is the iconic "unlikely event", and therefore I can only think of comic replies.

But I will suppress the urge to post a follow-up thread, such as
> "Lightning: pros and cons of the traditional tinfoil hat versus the modern, ultralight full rubber suit?"
> "Lightning: will a spare battery get my phone working after a direct hit, or is a powerbank better?",
> "Meteorite strikes: what is the safest season?"

All the best
 
Let us spare a thought for Ray Sullivan, an American park ranger who due to the nature of his job was often caught outdoors in storms. Consequently poor Ray held the record for being hit the most times by lightning, 7 times in total. That is unlucky!
PS He did survive
 
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Only a foolhardy (AKA stupid) pilgrim deliberately walks in a thunderstorm with lightning strikes occurring in the vicinity. A pilgrim that wants to join the Darwin club.
Why risk death or having some first responder have to transport your lifeless body? Seek shelter and wait it out.
I've seen what a lightning strike does to the human body. Wasn't pretty. The entry and exit burn wounds were crazy. I'm sure the poor kid never knew what hit him.
 
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Only a foolhardy (AKA stupid) pilgrim deliberately walks in a thunderstorm with lightning strikes occurring in the vicinity. A pilgrim that wants to join the Darwin club.
???

If you're in woods, or a Western European rural area with many trees and farm buildings and whatnot, the risk to you is pretty much nil.

Out in the wide open meseta in Spain, sure be more careful, but then I have not ever once seen such lightning storm conditions there ; and not all of the meseta is so wide open.

Lightning fatality stats per annum in Spain, France and Portugal are around 0.1 to 0.2 per million population. That's one fatality per 5 to 10 million people living there. The risk during a typical Camino of a few weeks is microscopically tiny.

Assuming an "average" 4-week Camino, that's about a 0.01% risk per million pilgrims, or a median risk of death to every 10 billionth pilgrim.
 
Whether you believe this or not, I don't care.

My own lightning strike story is from my first mostly failed but nevertheless completed Camino in 1993.

Three of us from Paris started at Logroño, then were joined by one from Normandy, and one he fell in love with a lovely peregrina from Germany.

Prior to starting ; one of my friends from Paris, and the one who got me interested in all of this in the first place, proposed a pact whereby we should encourage each other in case of discouragement. So, of course, we had our discouragement on the exact same day, between Astorga and Rabanal.

And instead of continuing (though I did end up finishing after a pause on that 1993, and she ended up walking from Le Puy to Santiago a couple of years later), we resolved to hitch-hike back to France.

In the exact instant when I dropped my pack on the ground, lightning struck the nearest telephone pole, about 10 metres away.

We thought -- well, that's weird, resolved to carry on : then a second lightning strike occurred onto the exact same pole.
Heard the crack, turned around to see sparks in the wind from 2 poles away...didnt unpucker all day
 
There is a real-time lightning strike map available. Not very "tech" competent so whilst I look at it at home on my laptop I presume that you can get it on your phone.
 
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I try to not walk when there's a good risk of a thunderstorm.

Learned to read the sky and can usually see it coming hours before.

Current weather radar (not weather forecast for the day!) is helpful to avoid getting caught in a storm. The already mentioned "lightning maps" can also help to see which direction a storm is moving.

Forecasts for the day are often inacurrate and updated too late when the weather decides to change suddenly. I've sometimes had the weather apps say "clear sky, no risk of rain" while the storm was already brewing, and it only switched to "risk of lightning" long after the storm had already started. Useless. Learned that the hard way over the years.

The radar for the next hour is usually very accurate, though. So that's what I use now, plus lightning maps.

I take zero days when the weather is unstable and the route exposed and/or with no emergency exit points to seek shelter (village, café, accommodation...) for longer distances. In unstable weather I want a potential place where I can shelter within 1h walking max.

Sometimes I'll take public transport if I want to continue moving but there are storms in the forecast.

I get made fun of for that often. People usually assume I don't want to walk in the rain, when I mention that I don't walk when there's a storm - some people apparently can't (or don't want to) understand that lightning poses a very real danger. I'll gladly walk in the rain for days, but definitely not through lightning storms.

The statistics of how (un)likely it is to be struck are often cited to show that the risk is very low, ("more likely to win the lottery" is what I often hear), but what is casually forgotten is the fact that those numbers are for the general risk, not the actual risk for someone standing on top of a mountain or exposed on a high plateau during a raging storm. It is of course much more likely to get struck under such circumstances.

Most people are inside buildings or cars nowadays when there's a lightning storm, which has lowered the number of people who are injured or killed by lightning each year.

In times when it was normal to work outside in the fields all day it wasn't that uncommon that someone would die by lightning strike. Farmers nowadays still lose sheep/cows/horses that are up on the mountains in summer because of lightning. It's not that rare.

Apparently some people think it is such a low risk it doesn't matter, though, or know the risk and prefer to continue walking anyway (hope or pray for the best). That's everybody's personal decision, of course, but it doesn't mean the risk doesn't exist or should be taken lightly.
 
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The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
The UK figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that 30-60 people are struck by lightning each year and on average 3 of these strikes are fatal. I presume that a "strike" is meant to show those that receive the shock through the ground rather than straight onto their body. From my memory of newspaper articles these appear to be those playing football rather than isolated walkers however perhaps we are not newsworthy.
 
???

If you're in woods, or a Western European rural area with many trees and farm buildings and whatnot, the risk to you is pretty much nil.

Out in the wide open meseta in Spain, sure be more careful, but then I have not ever once seen such lightning storm conditions there ; and not all of the meseta is so wide open.

Lightning fatality stats per annum in Spain, France and Portugal are around 0.1 to 0.2 per million population. That's one fatality per 5 to 10 million people living there. The risk during a typical Camino of a few weeks is microscopically tiny.

Assuming an "average" 4-week Camino, that's about a 0.01% risk per million pilgrims, or a median risk of death to every 10 billionth pilgrim.
Well go have fun in a lightning storm, then. Personally for me walking the Camino isn't an activity worth risking getting zapped by a million volts over. I don't see that as being a hardship to endure to be a true pilgrim ;).
 
Some of us notice that there are very few, if not none, lightning problems on the Camino, while these problems are less rare on other hiking places...
Do not forget that James, together with his brother John are called "sons of thunder" ((Mk 3,17): therefore probably James can protect his pilgrims against lightning...
 
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Do not forget that James, together with his brother John are called "sons of thunder" ((Mk 3,17): therefore probably James can protect his pilgrims against lightning...
Not something that I would rely on when I've been given a brain to make decisions to keep me safe.
 
Well go have fun in a lightning storm, then. Personally for me walking the Camino isn't an activity worth risking getting zapped by a million volts over. I don't see that as being a hardship to endure to be a true pilgrim ;).
A strange comment.

I can see nobody suggesting that pilgrims should rush to the nearest hillock during lightning storms and raise their metal hiking poles to the heavens ...

The risk of getting hit by a car during ordinary activities about town is significantly higher than being struck by lightning on a Camino. Should one then avoid ordinary activities about town ?

All I can say is that during some terrorist outrages in Paris, I chose to either walk or take mostly empty buses. On at least one occasion, that policy stopped me getting into a metro train that was blown up.

Nevertheless :

Valar Morghulis ...
 
Several years ago on the Via Francigena, was caught in a sudden lightening storm unlike anything I had ever seen…and I grew up in Land of Lightening Storms, Florida. Like much of the VF, it was in the middle of nowhere, with no shelter. We were on a big open agricultural field when it started, and as strike after strike hit all around, we ran across the field to a wooded area and crouched down in a small gully that was filled with runoff water. All was well but it led to a discussion that night of what to do in lightening storms. I still don’t know the answer but instinct says to get out of the open but likely not to crouch in water gullies. Thoughts, anyone?
 
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Several years ago on the Via Francigena, was caught in a sudden lightening storm unlike anything I had ever seen…and I grew up in Land of Lightening Storms, Florida. Like much of the VF, it was in the middle of nowhere, with no shelter. We were on a big open agricultural field when it started, and as strike after strike hit all around, we ran across the field to a wooded area and crouched down in a small gully that was filled with runoff water. All was well but it led to a discussion that night of what to do in lightening storms. I still don’t know the answer but instinct says to get out of the open but likely not to crouch in water gullies. Thoughts, anyone?
I certainly wouldn't have sought shelter among trees or next to even a small body of water. Finding the lowest point in the open, and then taking the other precautions already discussed would be my preference were I to face a similar set of circumstances.
 
Not something that I would rely on when I've been given a brain to make decisions to keep me safe.
I fully appreciate where you’re coming from but please remember that same brain is perfectly capable of deciding that you should try Heroin; that getting a lift home from the pub with the guy whose had a skin-full is perfectly safe. That dumping your friends for that smiley girl in the disco is ok because “that” only happens to the careless.

We’re drifting a long way from the origins of this thread. That life carries inherent risk keeps lugubrious vicars sermonizing every Sunday. That the gods’ have a sense of humour way beyond human comprehension is a given but “struck by lightning”? If you want a real risk to health and sanctity on Camino try focusing really hard on what could really go wrong….
 
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There is of course Yhprum's law - everything you expect to go right will.
Students of possibility enjoy both laws and their practical application.

A while ago, while searching for European Brown Bear in the Cordillera Cantabrica, I saw a Pine Martin. I had seen European Brown Bear on previous occasions in different locations. I had never previously seen a Pine Martin. I never did see a European Brown Bear in the Cordillera Cantabrica but I did see the Pine Martin.

Quod erat demonstrandum
 
I had never previously seen a Pine Martin. I never did see a European Brown Bear in the Cordillera Cantabrica but I did see the Pine Martin.

Quod erat demonstrandum
You weren't hit by lightning either! QED times 2!
 
On September 2nd there was a terrific thunderstorm on the eastern side of the Camino Frances. A topic of conversation along the Way thereafter, exchanging experiences. I had spent the night in Navarrete and was slightly later leaving than usual. So when the storm began I was still within the village. I tucked under an eave with my back to the hail and rain. The thunder and lightning rolled around and it was very scary. I decided to make my way back to a cafe but the rain pouring down the streets formed a torrent and on reaching a deeper eave I just tucked in again and counted the seconds between the thunder and lightning. I had on an Altus poncho which kept me dry. Just my feet and lower legs were soaked. Once the lightning was more than 5 miles away and didn't seem to be coming back I set off. The path was very muddy with a lot of flooded and washed out sections. The rain continued for most of the day but the lightning did not come back. Most of the people we met later had taken buses or taxis. Some pilgrims caught out near a road ha been given lifts by locals. Quite a few had been taken into Spanish homes to shelter. I'm not sure what I would have been done if caught further down the path. Probably crouch down and become as low as I could. A pilgrim told me he had thrown his sticks away and laid flat on the ground. In fact the lightning I observed was mostly horizontal, between the clouds. But not all! Some days later I was shown a video of some Korean Pilgrims trying to wade through a stream of very fast flowing muddy flood water. They said that one young woman had fallen over doing this and her pack meant she couldn't turn over and she was face down. Fortunately a quick thinking pilgrim saw and grabbed her and helped her become upright.

The biggest problem, I think, is that we are so programmed to keep walking forwards on the Camino. I always started early. In retrospect I could easily have stayed in a cafe for an hour or two. I'd seen a forecast but thought the lightning could miss my path. Walking in the rain is something I accept on the Camino. Thunder storms need serious attention.
Lying down on the ground is not recommended. If the frequency is such that you must take immediate action, backpackers and hikers are advised to get into a crouched position and to stay several feet away from other people. The CDC adds this:
  • Seek shelter immediately, even if caught out in the open.
    If you are caught in an open area, act quickly to find shelter. The most important action is to remove yourself from danger. Crouching or getting low to the ground can reduce your chances of being struck, but it does not remove you from danger.
  • If you are caught outside with no safe shelter nearby, the following actions might reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:
    • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.
    • Never lie flat on the ground. Crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground.
    • Never shelter under an isolated tree. If you are in a forest, shelter near lower trees.
    • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
    • Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
    • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills).
 
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I certainly wouldn't have sought shelter among trees or next to even a small body of water. Finding the lowest point in the open, and then taking the other precautions already discussed would be my preference were I to face a similar set of circumstances.
Hopefully, that one never happens again. Hair raising experience, to say the least.
 
Lying down on the ground is not recommended. If the frequency is such that you must take immediate action, backpackers and hikers are advised to get into a crouched position and to stay several feet away from other people. The CDC adds this:
  • Seek shelter immediately, even if caught out in the open.
    If you are caught in an open area, act quickly to find shelter. The most important action is to remove yourself from danger. Crouching or getting low to the ground can reduce your chances of being struck, but it does not remove you from danger.
  • If you are caught outside with no safe shelter nearby, the following actions might reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:
    • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges, or peaks.
    • Never lie flat on the ground. Crouch down in a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears so that you are down low with minimal contact with the ground.
    • Never shelter under an isolated tree. If you are in a forest, shelter near lower trees.
    • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
    • Immediately get out of and away from ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water.
    • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills).
I am curious. Does anyone know why it is advisable to avoid rocky overhangs for shelter or inside caves, as was mentioned in another post in this thread?
 
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Just a guess but maybe a lightning strike might precipitate a rockfall?

The danger, as far as I know, is not primarily rockfall. But the lightning wants to take the easiest way vertically down, and a person is apparently a better path than rock. So, the electricity will jump from the top of the cave into the person's head, through the body, and then through the feet into the ground to continue its path.

There's a cave somewhere in the US (in the Teton mountains?) that is apparently famous for that, and where several people have died. I saw a documentary about that a while ago.

Edit: sorry, I think I mixed up different documentaries. The cave incident might have been on half Dome? Not sure anymore. But doesn't matter, caves are dangerous during lightning storms!
 
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The danger, as far as I know, is not primarily rockfall. But the lightning wants to take the easiest way vertically down, and a person is apparently a better path than rock. So, the electricity will jump from the top of the cave into the person's head, through the body, and then through the feet into the ground to continue its path.
Exactly. And being in a cave it might be awhile before anyone finds your body. No problem for you but that could upset your family.
 
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I understand that the advice is to avoid any such space, including, for example, an shed or garage with an open front.
Interesting. The advice from the CDC says no rocky overhangs but doesn't mention caves, sheds or garages. It does, however, start with the bolded advice to seek shelter immediately. I can easily imagine folks not aware of the intricacies seeking shelter in a cave, garage, or shed if that were what was encountered first.
 
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A shed is a very bad idea, unless it is closed on all sides and has plumbing/electricity/lightning rod (garage with closed doors would be different than an open wooden shed for example, and more like a house).

I mean, a shed does help to get out of the rain, so if your concern is mainly hypothermia because of inadequate clothing, then it's at least something, but you're NOT safe from lightning.

In Germany, about ten years ago, four women died from lightning in an open wooden shed during a storm. They had been golfing and had sheltered together in the shed:


Three of them died instantly and one a few days later.

Such simple shelters are not really different from standing directly under a tree.

The only really safe places are inside a closed building (house with plumbing/electricity or best a lightning rod, or inside a closed metallic vehicle like a car (Faraday cage).
 
I live in Darwin, Australia where during the Wet there are many thunderstorms including Hector the Convector which is very predictable. It's definitely a place for stormchasers.
Darwin lightning article The article does mention blue sky bolts
If you live here then you are forever checking the BOM weather app radar during the Wet Season. I used the El Tiempo weather app in Spain and I found it was incredibly accurate for the weather in the UK this summer and much better than the UK Met app.

For lightning I use My Lightning Tracker by JRustonApps B.V. https://lightningstrik.es It also includes a radar so you can work out the path of the storm.
Screenshot_20231122_172259_My Lightning Tracker.jpg
 
Humpty Doo! How enchanting! I am almost sorry now, that I chose a far shorter plane trip in 1969 than the sea trip for £10 that was my possible goal after my studies,
Que sera.
 
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We encountered a big lightening storm when going North ( home from our Camino) on the border of Spain and France. The highest part of the French Route. We were on Mountain Bikes and heading along the GR 10 , so rode very fast for the valley, we had torrential rain for an hour or two with lightning and thunder. Eventually we found a flat spot in a valley to camp in once the storm has past.two very wet and exhausted pilgrims.
On the Summit area there were dozens of pilgrims, most of who seemed totally oblivious of the danger they were in.
 
Interesting. The advice from the CDC says no rocky overhangs but doesn't mention caves, sheds or garages. It does, however, start with the bolded advice to seek shelter immediately. I can easily imagine folks not aware of the intricacies seeking shelter in a cave, garage, or shed if that were what was encountered first.
Several years ago a friend and I were caught in a lightning storm while wade fishing in a bay. It came in fast. No place to go. We got up on the marsh grass ditched the fishing poles and lay down prone in the grass in our neoprene waders about 50 meters apart and rode it out, the bolts cracking overhead and hitting who knows where as we didn't dare look up. It was scary as hell. Lasted probably half an hour as the storm blew past. As soon as it was gone the blue skies came back and we resumed fishing. I know they recommend that one sits in a crouch with only the balls of their feet making contact, but it was marsh grass and mud and to be quite honest making as low a profile as possible was instinctual.
If that's the last time I ever experience that I'll be a happy man. :D
 
A shed is a very bad idea, unless it is closed on all sides and has plumbing/electricity/lightning rod (garage with closed doors would be different than an open wooden shed for example, and more like a house).

I mean, a shed does help to get out of the rain, so if your concern is mainly hypothermia because of inadequate clothing, then it's at least something, but you're NOT safe from lightning.

In Germany, about ten years ago, four women died from lightning in an open wooden shed during a storm. They had been golfing and had sheltered together in the shed:


Three of them died instantly and one a few days later.

Such simple shelters are not really different from standing directly under a tree.

The only really safe places are inside a closed building (house with plumbing/electricity or best a lightning rod, or inside a closed metallic vehicle like a car (Faraday cage).
I wasn't saying a shed was a good idea. Just that when we are in a storm and told to "seek shelter" I think most of us lay people would think it more of a shelter than crouching in the rain. We would be wrong, but without the guidance that tells us otherwise (which the CDC advice quoted didn't provide) we wouldn't know that we were wrong.
 
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I wasn't saying a shed was a good idea. Just that when we are in a storm and told to "seek shelter" I think most of us lay people would think it more of a shelter than crouching in the rain. We would be wrong, but without the guidance that tells us otherwise (which the CDC advice quoted didn't provide) we wouldn't know that we were wrong.
The full CDC advice on this can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/lightning/safetytips.html. It is quite clear that you shouldn't shelter in open structures.
 
Theres a line in a song from a few years ago
"The experience of survival is the key"
Thats a bloody chunk of the whole phrase.

But i think its germain.
Getting inured to an experience doesnt take away from the danger or hazards..

It just isnt immediate to the moments Experienced.
I have experienced many storms, and my standing under one calmly shooting pictures would probably traumatize many of the good folk here.
Then, seeing me scamper for cover while others are oblivious to the danger I developed a perception for.

Inured, Ime not oblivious nor flippant to tempt the Good Lord, its a calculated risk bourn of experience-s
I will never willingly swim with big sharks, five or six footers in the surf is my limit.
But little black tips ive no issues with
I will never willingly touch any spider bigger than about 5mm...
As for clowns.........

I will be terrible the first few days of a Camino. Fight or flight,anxiety,social and otherwise...not sleeping for the hyper vigilance...
Then about a week in? Will settle in... and off I go.
Meanwhile, all the veterans will watch me in a vague haze of humor.
They..are used to that
Ime not.

SO..out there in the big empty...if you see a big dummy dancing excitedly after a flash of cloud to cloud lightning behind his camera, do your thing
There is a rhythm to every storm, a certain factor of growth,a certain rhythm to the types and timing of lightning

Cloud to cloud(C2C) storms are less violent than Cloud to Ground(C2G),lasting longer
C2G will be coming at you fast and violent.


You develop a sense of the rhythm as many of the people here are aware
Follow the guidlines
Be safe..any metals in your packs will be more attractive as you squat there
This was about about 50 yards away and only a small tendril,not a full bolt
 

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I wasn't saying a shed was a good idea. Just that when we are in a storm and told to "seek shelter" I think most of us lay people would think it more of a shelter than crouching in the rain. We would be wrong, but without the guidance that tells us otherwise (which the CDC advice quoted didn't provide) we wouldn't know that we were wrong.

It is indeed very counter-intuitive. It feels more natural to sit down under a roof, which is probably why most people still do it, even though it's not safe.

Anyway. When in panic, it is easy to make wrong decisions even if you know (in theory) what to do.

I once got into a massive lightning storm in Galicia. I was the only one crouching on the balls of my feet under a tiny bush at the lowest point of the area I was in. A lightning hit the road not far away. Extremely scary and quite dangerous. All the other pilgrims just continued walking, some with umbrellas up. I felt like a complete idiot crouching all alone in a bush, even though it was what is recommended! The other pilgrims probably thought I must have lost my mind!

In the next storm in Galicia, years later, I did decide to sit under an open porch with other pilgrims instead, even though I knew it was dangerous (the porch was a metal structure also - not smart!). The comfort of being dry and in good company overrode knowing better.

If we would have died, at least not alone in the mud 🤣.
 
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Can one be struck by secondhand lightning? If so, then I was. Summer 67, I was a seasonal Ranger at Montezuma’s Well Nat. Monument. Talking on the phone in the office when I saw lightning hit the phone pile across the dirt road. Next thing I know, I awoke lying on the floor and the office was full of smoke. The bolt had entered the office via the wall pay phone, remember those?, blown up the Bakelite connector box like a grenade, then severed the armored handset cable, after entering my ear! After shaking my head, I closed the office early and staggered to my housing. Point is that I survived, somehow, but have had a dread of lightning ever since. To the point that if a storm looms, with lightning flashing, I head to the basement. On the Camino, who knows!!!
 
Can one be struck by secondhand lightning? If so, then I was. Summer 67, I was a seasonal Ranger at Montezuma’s Well Nat. Monument.
In a past life, I was a telecommunications technician. We were always careful to install a lightning protector on twisted pair cables where they entered a building. My memory is vague on the specification, but they significantly reduced the voltage in the case of a lightning strike. You would still have got a shock, which it appears you did, but not the full force of the unattenuated lightning strike taking a shortcut to the handset and through your body.

Those of a certain age might remember the advice not to make calls until a thunderstorm had passed. This is why. I'm glad you survived.
 
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