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Thread: Caught in storm

  1. #1
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    Caught in storm

    Hi Guys,

    I was going to go for a nice long ride on Friday night last week but they were calling for storms later in the day and decided not too. It was one of those days where it had been 100+ for about four days and there was something in the air all day where you could feel something brewing. About 5pm we and surrounding areas just got hammered by rain,wind, and heavy lightning. Some areas only a few miles from here suffered from some straight line damage. Even though it was called for and I knew I wasn't going out with storms called for I knew that there would be people on the trail as it went from a nice sunny afternoon to a greenish black looking sky in about 15 minutes.

    I was wondering have any of you been caught out by a storm, let alone one that was a monster of one. What did you do? I don't plan on riding when storms are predicted but thought I would ask. You new know it might be something I would remember one day if I do get caught out.

    Around the trails here you don't have alot of options aside from under a tree if its just raining. But if there is alot of lighting you would really be in trouble.

    Any tips for riders that have been caught out?

    Jeremy

  2. #2
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    Hate being caught out on a trail with high clay content that cakes up on your wheels and they can no longer turn.
    I was pre riding the trail at the X Bar Ranch near Eldorado, TX when a late spring thunderstorm came in. I have never experienced so much lightning at such high frequency and so close, then torrential rain. Ended up dragging my bike down the trail, the tires were so caked up with heavy, clay-ey mud -- wouldn't roll and too heavy to carry! Finally found a big puddle of water, and cleaned up the wheels to the extent possible, managed to get to a paved road and rode in the rest of the way. It was late May in West Texas, so not particularly cold.

    My greatest fear would be getting stranded in cold weather and getting rained on with no rain gear handy. I've worked outdoors for many years in remote areas, so I'm fairly obsessed with the weather report. Carry basic rain gear and some very basic survival stuff (matches/fire starter, space blanket, simple head lamp and a small pocket knife don't weight a lot) if you are in an area remote enough that you might end up spending the night if you have a serious mechanical.

  3. #3
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    We were skiing back to Ostrander Hut in the Yosemite backcountry after aborting a climb of Buena Vista peak due to fast growing storms. By the time we reached the Merced Crest above Ostander Lake, storms were building above us also. As we approached the crest, blue sparks were jumping from poles and ski edges to the snow. The air had a sharp ozone smell to it. This was clearly a very threatening situation indeed and we were really motivated to get outa there!

    We didn't go around the cornice and carefully ski the steeps; we threw ourselves over the cornice and butt slid with legs and skis up off snow from the crest down to more moderate slopes. The storm hit right after we got back into the hut. It hailed, thundered, and roared for about 3 hours. We skied 6" of fresh 1/8" ice bearing balls the next morning. It skied great!

    Pity the folks that got lost coming to the hut. They arrived beat up and soaked from hail and blasting wind just before the storm ended. We kept hot chocolate going until the last skiers straggled in.

  4. #4
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    Look at the weather first. If you don't understand weather, take a class and learn how to predict it and know what the signs are to look for. Head back if it looks like it's turning. I've been caught in too many severe thunderstorms to ever want that again, but some people seem to think it's no big deal. I question whether they were really in that severe of a thunderstorm with the lightning going off at the exact same time as the concussive thunder blast, but whatever...Yes, the weather affects rides. Yes, you may not be able to ride sometimes, even if you made the time for it.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  5. #5
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    A) I can change a flat or fix my chain fairly easily on the trail.
    B) I'm ok with rain or thunderstorms.


    I have zero interest in combining A and B.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sjhiker View Post
    A) I can change a flat or fix my chain fairly easily on the trail.
    B) I'm ok with rain or thunderstorms.


    I have zero interest in combining A and B.
    You would be ok with constant hail? I've seen it come down in quarter-size in most states (not just midwest). Lightning also becomes a real concern if you are in the storm, as the chances of getting hit go up dramatically if you are actually IN a thunderstorm, on a mountain, in an exposed area, on an aluminum bike. It's by far a guaranteed hit, but it's a lot better than getting hit out of the blue. Then there's the winds, micro-bursts, flying debris, etc. These are the realities of thunderstorms.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  7. #7
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    Jayem,

    You missed my point... I was implying that I have no interest in riding my mountain bike in a thunderstorm. While I can fix a flat, I don't carry a complete spare bike and the thought of walking 5 or 10 miles with a bike and potentially tired and/or injured in adverse conditions isn't my idea of fun. I don't have any interest in combining mountain biking with the following, but not limited to environmental conditions:

    • high humidity
    • hurricanes
    • tornadoes
    • Volcanic Eruptions
    • Zombie Attacks
    • Hail (I lived in Alabama for 5 years, I know golf ball sized hail thank you very much)
    • >95degree heat (dry or humid)
    • Snow
    • Grass/Forest fires
    • Mudslides
    • Avalanches
    • Oakland, CA based "non-violent" protests
    • Detroit RedWings Stanley Cup victory celebrations
    • Alien Attacks
    • Flash Floods

  8. #8
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    2 times...

    I/We thought we'd go for a short ride before the weather rolled in. We were too slow and the weather was too fast.
    The first time was a LOT of lightning on a night ride, but it was warm rain and fairly pleasant after the lightning passed.

    The second time I was actually scared. I got caught out in high winds and there were large branches flying through the air. I sheltered on the leeward side of the biggest tree I could find and was honestly looking straight up hoping that nothing big was heading my way. I could hear trees falling over but it was raining so hard I couldn't see very far. I literally hugged the tree until the heavy stuff let up. As I finished my ride after the storm the trail was littered with debris - a lot of it stuck endwise into the ground right in the center of the trail. *shudder*

    Someone might ask "Why didn't you check the weather report?"
    Well, if you lived in NE Ohio you'd know that the weather report is accurate about 40% of the time (and those guys still have jobs!), so most people laugh at them. In this case, it was about 30% chance of rain, and not with damaging winds. I don't mind finishing a ride in the rain... as long as it is not raining trees.

    -F

    PS - not riding, but cabin camping in the Michaux S.F., PA (Oct. 2011):
    Day 1, 3pm
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    Day 2, 9am
    Caught in storm-100_0034.jpg
    The weight of the snow was knocking down trees and branches so that the roads were blocked and could not be cleared. We had to chop through three fallen trees with a small hatchet to get to the highway.
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the replies guys

    Wow Fleas. Sounds like you were caught in a doozey that day, I could almost see last Friday here explained in your post.

  10. #10
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    Been caught in many a thunder banger, strong winds, marble size hail stones and rain so heavy I couldn't see 2 feet in front of me. I keep riding though, I dont want to stop and my worst fear is being hit by fallen branches or a full tree. That woiuld suck but if it did happen I hope its kills me instantly, it would suck large to lie there and die over hours and hours. If I know ones coming I don't head out but those storms can come in out of nowhere fast, beat you down and be gone in 15 minutes.

  11. #11
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    I have been caught in some decent storms out in the woods, but nothing that has struck as much fear in me as being caught out on the water in a storm. That **** was terrifying.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    PS - not riding, but cabin camping in the Michaux S.F., PA (Oct. 2011):
    Day 1, 3pm
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Size:  89.7 KB
    Day 2, 9am
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The weight of the snow was knocking down trees and branches so that the roads were blocked and could not be cleared. We had to chop through three fallen trees with a small hatchet to get to the highway.
    That was the Halloween storm wasn't it?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sjhiker View Post
    Jayem,

    You missed my point... I was implying that I have no interest in riding my mountain bike in a thunderstorm. While I can fix a flat, I don't carry a complete spare bike and the thought of walking 5 or 10 miles with a bike and potentially tired and/or injured in adverse conditions isn't my idea of fun. I don't have any interest in combining mountain biking with the following, but not limited to environmental conditions:

    • high humidity
    • hurricanes
    • tornadoes
    • Volcanic Eruptions
    • Zombie Attacks
    • Hail (I lived in Alabama for 5 years, I know golf ball sized hail thank you very much)
    • >95degree heat (dry or humid)
    • Snow
    • Grass/Forest fires
    • Mudslides
    • Avalanches
    • Oakland, CA based "non-violent" protests
    • Detroit RedWings Stanley Cup victory celebrations
    • Alien Attacks
    • Flash Floods
    I liked!
    2013 Santa Cruz Solo C
    2013 Santa Cruz Chameleon 650b SS
    2012 Giant Defy (Roadie)

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wishful Tomcat View Post
    That was the Halloween storm wasn't it?
    Yup. Folks who left a 1/2 hr. before us made it out no problem.
    While we were chopping the fallen trees out of the way we could hear more trees falling. We were very careful about where we parked the truck!

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  15. #15
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    I've been caught in a few... no really epic stories to tell, but they do suck. I work a little in outdoor leadership. Here are some tips and resources for ya:

    If you get caught in the open in a lightning storm, lightning position lower your risk of serious injury: NWS Pueblo, CO - Colorado National Lightning Casualty Statistics Page

    If you're with a group, make sure to spread the group members well apart (20ft or so). That way, if one person gets struck by lightning, the others can care for him or her.

    Try to get to low areas--even little depressions in the ground if the area is mostly flat--and move away from the tallest point in the area. (In other words, don't take shelter under the one tall tree in the field.)

    This article has some pretty good info as well: Surviving a Lightning Storm | Wild Backpacker
    "Never trust a man in a blue trench coat. Never drive a car when you're dead." -- Tom Waits

  16. #16
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    Cheers, thanks for the links. The Surviving a Lightning storm was interesting read. Some great tips to remember.

  17. #17
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    I've been caught out in a thunder storm several times while riding. Once I was just cresting a climb when everything got quiet and then things got dark quickly, the winds picked up, I knew what was coming next. A few claps of thunder and the flashes of lightning started up, then the rain came in a torrent. The rain was so heavy the trail turned into a fast flowing stream surprisingly fast. I got about 2/3ds down the hill before I decided to hop off the bike and sit low among the trees away from the bike. And just as fast as it happened it stopped, it took about10 minutes. Another time I was finishing up a ride around dusk and again things got darker fast, I was about 1/2 mile from the trail head and trying to pedal as fast as I could. The lightning did help with making it easier to see the trail. I got wet but not completely soaked this time. I've also been caught out while fishing in a canoe on a smaller river, twice. I hit the shore and waited out the storm among the trees again. This past Sunday my brother, a buddy and I were on a lake doing some fishing when I spotted some storm clouds building up north of the lake, and noted that the wind would be blowing it our way and we should head out. We got off the lake and headed home, as soon as we finished unloading the boat and the rest of the equipment the thunder rumbled, the lightning started up and the rains let loose. Good timing on our part. Living in New England you come to learn the weather report is almost always but never 50% accurate.

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