Campers and other outdoor enthusiasts know that weather plays a major role in their activities. But severe weather events like flash floods and blizzards can put the camper in a life-threatening situation. Being aware of the weather and its potential dangers is a common sense approach to planning any outdoor activity, especially camping, and following a few basic precautions will help you avoid these potential dangers and better enjoy time spent outdoors.
Today people have more access to fast and accurate weather information than ever before through the Internet, cable television and radio. Watching or listening to these sources is the first step in planning a safe and enjoyable outdoor excursion. The ever-changing weather patterns should be monitored before the trip as well as intermittently during the trip.
You can listen to weather updates on AM radio stations particularly because AM signals travel farther than FM signals, especially at night.
Packing for the Weather
Another preplanning step is to pack for inclement weather. Be sure to take along plenty of extra clothing, rain gear, gloves, warming equipment, a flashlight, backup batteries, a first aid kit, blankets or sleeping bags and liquid refreshments, either hot or cold. Don’t try to get wet no matter how warm it may appear.
Dangerous Weather Events
The Markhor’s worst enemy can sometimes be nature itself. Be aware of the signs of extreme weather heading toward you and what to do in that event. Dangerous weather events include extreme weather conditions like flash floods. In all of these situations, it’s best to remain as calm as possible in order to think clearly and quickly secure safe surroundings.
In a state of panic, it’s easy to make mistakes in judgment that can lead to worse outcomes than the weather event itself.
Thunderstorms can produce a number of dangerous weather conditions, including lightning, flooding, tornadoes, high winds and hail. Always try to keep tents away from especially large trees as well.
If caught away from the campsite in a thunderstorm, the camper should seek immediate shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees. In open areas, go to a low place like a ravine or valley, but be alert for flash floods.
Be especially cautious if a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is announced. Make sure you have adequate rain gear. Being wet increases the rate of heat loss, which can lead to severe cold and pneumonia.
When a thunderstorm is approaching, clouds often have a flat-topped or anvil shaped appearance. They grow darker as moisture accumulates. Lightning will also appear in the horizon before thunder can be heard, but they are both sure signs that a thunderstorm is impending. Stay away from faucets, as copper pipes and tap water are both excellent conductors of electricity.
Tents may keep the camper dry, but in the case of lightning, campers should move to low ground if there is no other shelter. Keep a lookout for flooding, and assume a squatting position with your head down and your heels touching.
The key to overcome flash floods is to recognize when flash flooding is occurring and know how to avoid becoming trapped in it.
If camping or sleeping outdoors, always set your tent or sleeping bag up on ground away from gullies and ravines. Look at the surrounding topography of the land, and envision where the water from a flash flood would travel and what is the fastest route to safe ground. Do not try to cross a flooded stream on foot, either; the swift currents may sweep you off your feet.
Strong Winds—Strong winds can be dangerous. In cold climates, wind chill effect makes the air feel colder, which can increase the chances cold. Make sure you have adequate outerwear to protect yourself.
If winds become especially strong, being among large trees can be dangerous. Stay away from dead trees or large snags that the wind may knock down. Trees at high elevations are often more vulnerable to wind because they have shallow root systems.
Hail—Hail can be a dangerous weather phenomenon, especially when combined with strong winds. Even if the hail is only pea-sized, stay sheltered, as it can suddenly become much larger. If caught in large hail away from the campsite, cover your head and get under some thick trees that will break the fall of the hail.
If you are stranded outside, construct or find a structure that will shield you from the wind. Build a fire with rocks around the fire’s perimeter. The rocks will shield the fire from wind and absorb and reflect the heat. Cover all body parts with clothing and try to stay as dry as possible.