WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

I am fishing in the Mississippi sound, specifically Horn Island. It has no trees or buildings just flat sand. A storm blows up with lightning. Are we safer on the island, in the water, or in our small open boat?

Posted June 28, 2008

MIKE MOSS SAYS:      J,      Not many good options there! If you absolutely have no way to get to more substantial shelter, the least bad choice is probably to pull up onto the island and stay as low to the ground as you reasonably can, and to maintain some distance and separation between members of your group so that if a strike occurs, everyone isn't hit at the same time and there is someone left to provide first aid, call for help via marine radio or cell phone, etc. If you stay in the boat, try to keep your body as low as possible in hopes that a strike would hit the boat and pass through or over the hull and into the water. One problem with the boat is that it would be difficult to put any significant space between the people on board. In fact, I remember a case when I was living in Panama City FL in which both people on board a small open boat were killed by a single strike. Of course, if the storm happened to produce severe wind gusts in addition to lightning, the boat could be subject to swamping, which is another reason for placing the island as the first choice. Just to reiterate, though, all of the choices you mentioned are less than ideal, and sometimes all you can do is hope that you are lucky.

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