I have camped through many thunderstorms over the years, and the same question always comes up: What do you do when there is a bad thunderstorm with lightning, heavy winds, or hail? Do you stay in the tent, go to the car, or go somewhere else? Not being sure what to do, I’ve done all of them. You should always take appropriate shelter if the weather conditions look dangerous.
Lightning: With lightning, you want to avoid high points (including tall trees or high ridges), metal, water, branches, and other debris that could fall and hit you. Consider the “30-30” Lightning Rule: When there is less than thirty seconds between the sound of thunder and the sight of lightning, you should find shelter. You should also wait in the sheltered area until thirty minutes past the last thunder.
Shelter: Move to a comfort station or your hard-topped vehicle if you are in a tent or tent trailer. If you go to your hard-topped vehicle for protection, do not touch any metal parts inside it if there is lightning.
Backcountry Camping: If camping in the backcountry, move to a low-lying area, crouch down, cover your head, and avoid being near the tallest objects such as isolated trees. Remove all metal objects from your pockets and do not lie flat on the ground, as this will make you a larger target.
Tent: If your tent is under trees that may fall on it, then wait outside in the storm in a spot that looks safe from falling debris.
Other Severe Weather: You should also look for shelter immediately if there is large hail. If there is heavy rain or flash flooding, stay away from streams and rivers. If a twister or tornado hits, go to the campground comfort station if possible. Strong winds may be capable of overturning your vehicle.
Weatheradio Canada: You should always have access to a radio to listen to the local weather channel. Usually, you can get a heads-up warning two to six hours before a major storm strikes and possibly drive away before the storm hits. Weatheradio Canada is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting weather and environmental information twenty-four hours a day for this purpose. Tune in whenever you can to ensure that you are prepared for any storms.
The best thing to do with thunderstorms and other severe weather is stay calm and go with your gut feeling, and usually you will do the right thing.