Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lightning flays big tree on Baldy


By JODY ZARKOS
Express Staff Writer

Indian Creek resident Cindy Glenn said that in 30 years of living in the Wood River Valley and hiking on Bald Mountain, she has never seen anything quite like the sight that greeted her while hiking Baldy on Monday evening.

Glenn said lightning struck a 35-foot Douglas fir tree, leaving a perfect swath of exposed wood.

"It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen," she said. "It looked as if a giant peeled that tree like a banana. It is an absolutely perfect strip, nine inches across from the top all the way to the bottom."

Glenn said the tree is in the Frenchman's drainage near the edge of Can-Can run off of the Lilly Marlane cat track.

"Nothing but lightning could have caused it," she said. "The dirt in the ground was peeled back and disturbed and there is bark all over the place. It looks like it just exploded off of the tree."

Glenn said she thinks the strike took place on Monday afternoon, based on the fact that there wasn't any pitch dripping from the tree, which occurs after a tree has suffered injury or insult.

"The tree was clean," she said.

A frequent hiker, Glenn said she will no longer have a casual attitude regarding lightning storms.

"My husband and I almost went up during the storm around 4 o'clock and we thought we would just stick to the lower part of the mountain, but we decided against it and went home," Glenn said. "I never took the threat of lightning that seriously, but I will never feel safe ever again in a lightning storm. There is no safe place if you are on a mountain during a storm."

This year to date, the National Weather Service reports 24 deaths in 17 states caused by lightning. The closest state to Idaho to experience fatalities is Wyoming with two.

The National Weather Service offers the following tips to avoid being caught in a storm, and what to do if caught:

( Know the weather patterns of the area. For example, in mountainous areas, thunderstorms typically develop in the early afternoon, so plan to hike early in the day and be down the mountain by noon.

( Listen to the weather forecast for the outdoor area you plan to visit. The forecast may be very different from the one near your home. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, stay home.

( If camping or hiking far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge.

( Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.

( If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. A tent offers no protection from lighting.

( Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.






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