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Storm in the mountains - how to survive and where to shelter

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Turn off the phone? Run away or lie down on the ground? Or maybe crouch with legs together? What to do, when during a mountain trip we’ll get surprised by a storm?

Polish mountains are not the Sahara desert, where the traveller can be surprised by a sandstorm. It would seem that checking on the weather forecast is one of the first things you do before the trip. Nonetheless, we constantly hear about accidents in the mountains and tourists being struck by lightning. How to explain that? Recklessness? Lack of caution? Or maybe just a bad luck?

GOPR rescue lifeguards are of the opinion that most people, who prefer mountain tours, are aware of the treachery of the aura in these areas, and realize that the storm strak may move in just 10 minutes up to dozens of kilometers. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say that about the so-called “Sunday tourists”. This term applies to people, who hit the trails once a year on average, often without a proper preparation (and we're not talking about the famous web pictures of women wearing high heels). Full of fervor, they enthusiastically roam the trails, but once surprised by the storm in the open space, they panic and don’t know what to do.

Escaping the thunderstorm

During the summer, storms in the mountains are quite common, with a particular emphasis on the afternoon. Therefore, it would be the best to hit the road early in the morning. Careful observation of the landscape will not only reward us with enchanting views, but will also save us from the treat - "grunts" are heard, but lightning can be seen from a distance.

However, if we happen to get absent-minded, our attention was caught by something else (eg, the panorama of the peaks) and we realized that the thunderstorm has already come, we should immediately leave the protruding rocks, ridges and outdoor space. While escaping, we should follow the leeward side of the ridge (opposite to the approaching storm).

Of course, on no condition choose lone, tall trees. You can seek for a shelter only in the valley, for example, in a dense forest. You should also avoid large clusters of metal. You should not use a cell phone during a storm.

Tourists, who went up to the mountains on a bike, or have climbing equipment (or ax), should put it aside, to find the most isolated area and wait for the storm to leave, cringed on the ground.

Mountain safety course

According to the findings of the Podhalanska Group GOPR, more than a half of the mountainous accidents affect people between 11 and 30 years old. The main reasons include the lack of adequate preparation, bravado, recklessness and lack of imagination. Wishing to protect tourists against the dangers related with such an expedition, GOPR shared an e-learning course on safety in the mountains on its website. One of the sections is devoted to the storms.

Translation: Karolina Strzałkowska

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