Thunder and lightning do not seem to be as common here in the Yukon as in southern Canada. However, lightning strikes are probably the most common cause of our forest fires.
Lightning is a gigantic spark jumping between a charged cloud and the earth, but what actually causes lightning is still an item of debate.
Between 2006 and 2013, 26 anglers were struck and killed by lightning in the U.S.A. Anglers still hold the top position as far as deaths by lightning. Just realize you are standing there with a 7’ to 10’ graphite lightening rod in your hand. Consider that you, in a boat, with your rod, are the tallest point out on that body of water.
As a result you will be the logical target if lightning happens in the area. A person struck by lightning is often killed instantly, but severe burns are also common. It is a rare situation where the lightning bolt that struck a person is a bolt out of the blue – where it is the only sign of lightning in the area.
The lightning strike on a person or boat has usually been preceded by other lightning in the area, but the victim was too slow about leaving the area or worse was convinced that it couldn’t happen to them.
The can’t-happen-to-me syndrome has lead to the deaths of many people in various activities. Last summer I was on a lake fishing from my boat and accompanied by another boat. It clouded over – although no obvious thunderheads were nearby – and it started to rain. Gently at first, then more heavily. After a few minutes the clouds became darker and lightning was visible in the distance, but not far away.
To me, discretion is the better part of valor so I started to head to the boat launch as quickly as my boat could get us out of there. The other boat did likewise – or at least that was what I thought until he stopped where the river went out of the lake and he started to slowly troll back towards the boat launch.
I thought that was pretty careless behaviour, but I was not going to make myself more of a target for lightning by stopping and suggesting he get back to the boat launch.
The power and sight of a real thunder and lightning storm is certainly one of nature’s greatest visual treats, but we need to respect nature’s sometimes deadly power.