Summer and the upcoming holiday provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. But in Oklahoma we know the impact weather can have on our plans. Whether hiking, camping, boating, or just romping in the sun, there are many things to consider when planning an outdoor activity. Being prepared for severe weather will help make yours a safe, fun event. Keep the following suggestions in mind.
- Check the weather forecast prior to your outing.
- Carry a weather radio at all times.
- Inform others of your intended destination and return time.
- Pack a fully equipped first aid kit.
- Take along extra clothing, bedding, raingear, flashlights, and extra batteries for unexpected climate changes.
- Check your selected site for potential hazards.
- Locate the nearest phone or ranger station in case of emergencies.
- Consider what shelter areas are available and plan to use them if necessary.
In addition, there are specific recommendations for the specific activity you are planning.
When setting up a campsite, avoid high or open places vulnerable to lightning, as well as low places vulnerable to flooding. Tents and campers should never be the highest object in the area. Look for a spot that is sheltered from the wind and free of dead trees. Don’t pitch tents next to very tall, isolated trees. Avoid camping next to gullies and ravines that may be susceptible to flash flooding.
Severe thunderstorms present a number of risks. Campers and tents provide little shelter from these risks. If tornadoes threaten, abandon them at once and take shelter elsewhere. If nothing else is available, lie down in a ditch and cover your head. Lying down during a lightning storm is not advised, even inside a tent, as you could be subject to ground current. For protection from lightning, the interior of an automobile provides the best protection and if you are caught out in the open, squat down on the balls of your feet with your head lowered. A vehicle is not the place to be if there is a risk of tornadoes or flash flooding. Flash flooding is one of the most dangerous and common weather events. Never attempt to drive or walk through high water. It takes only 18” of water to float a vehicle and very little moving water has the power to knock you off your feet. If flash floods threaten, climb to higher ground immediately.
Because severe weather most often occurs in the afternoon and evening, try to plan hiking trips for the morning hours. If caught in lightning, abandon metal-framed backpacks and avoid open areas, water, metal fences, and other objects that will conduct electricity. You should be relatively safe in a dense forest of low trees, but be wary of injury from falling branches.
When boating, watch for cloud build-up, sudden drop in temperature or change in wind direction. Here are suggestions if caught in foul weather.
- Put on personal flotation devices and make sure they are properly secured.
- Reduce speed.
- Turn on running lights.
- Seat passengers on bottom of boat near centerline.
- Head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach.
- Keep the bilge free of water.
- Head the bow of boat into the waves at a 45 degree angle. Personal watercraft should head into waves at a 90 degree angle.
- If your engine fails, drop anchor from the bow.
Contact: Paula Cain, Emergency Management Director, 767-0380