Columns » Hiking Bob

Spring and summer weather safety

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CALE CALDWELL\SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Cale Caldwell\Shutterstock
Spring has come and gone and summer is here, and with it, the predictable, yet erratic, weather of the Pikes Peak region.

If you've been here a while, this will be a refresher for you, and if you're new here — especially if this is your first summer — this will be useful information for you.

First, lets talk about the most dangerous summer weather hazard: lightning. The Pikes Peak region is known for late afternoon rain and thunderstorms, many times severe storms. According to the National Weather Services parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Colorado ranked among the top 10 states in lightning fatalities from 2006 to 2015. NOAA devotes an entire website to lightning safety, and advises to "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors." According to NOAA, if you can hear thunder, you're at risk of being struck by lightning, even if you don't see lightning or feel rain. Your best course of action is to get off the trail and into shelter as soon as you can. You can get more information on lightning safety at NOAA's website.

Of course, thunder and lightning is usually accompanied by rain, and it can come down fast and heavy, causing flash floods that can overwhelm our narrow canyons. Also, at our elevation the falling rain is fairly cold, and can cause hypothermia, even in the summer (take it from someone who's been there). Make sure you have rain gear with you when you're out on the trails, even if just a cheap disposable poncho, to keep yourself dry in the event you get stuck in the rain.

When it's not raining, it's usually sunny and warm — even hot — and dry. The result is that you can become dehydrated very quickly, without realizing it. The best way to avoid dehydration is to drink plenty of water, and never do any outdoor activity without bringing water with you.

With sunshine also also comes the threat of sunburn, and, even worse, skin cancer. Protect yourself with sunscreen — the higher SPF rating the better — and go for regular screenings with your physician.

Go out and have a good time, and respect Mother Nature.

Happy (safe) Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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