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Lightning: Information for Water Activities

Before leaving for any water activity such as a boating trip, check the weather forecast so you know what to expect during the day. If the forecast is for thunderstorms, plan your trip for another day. If you are out in the open water and a thunderstorm rolls in, return to shore immediately to find safe shelter. If you are unable to return to shore, boats with cabins offer some protection. When inside the cabin during a lightning storm, stay away from all metal and electrical components, including the radio, unless it is an emergency. If caught in a storm in a small boat with no cabin, drop anchor and get as low as possible.

Additional Boating Safety Tips

Boat on the water with clouds above
  • LISTEN to the forecast.
    Short-term forecasts are quite accurate; however, they may miss some very localized storms
  • LEARN how to read the weather.
    Watch for the development of large, well-defined, rising cumulus clouds. Cumulus clouds have flat bases and dome or cauliflower shapes. Cumulus clouds can develop into thunderstorm clouds. When you see cumulus reach 30,000 feet, the thunderstorm is generally developing, and it is time to head for shore. As clouds become darker and more anvil-shaped, the storm is already in progress.
  • WATCH and LISTEN for distant activity.
    Watch for distant lightning and listen for distant thunder. You may hear thunder before you see lightning on a bright day. If you hear thunder or see lightning, seek shelter away from the water.
  • PROTECT your boat.
    The National Ag Safety Database provides a number of ways you can protect your boat and minimize damage if it is struck by lightning or is near a lightning strike.

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