One thing that many folks might need to get used to while living in the mountains is the storms. When we get a storm up here in these iron rich mountains you are really in it! You watch the dark, menacing clouds as they gather above the closest ridge and come billowing in. One moment there is light fluffy clouds and sun, the next you can see, smell and feel the cold moisture cascading down upon you.
Here we can see the rain falling on a nearby slope as it moves in. In winter we observe the snow whitewashing that slope a good while before it hits us. I’ve learned to start packing up my outdoor projects before I get clobbered by a heavy storm, this particular slope to my West happens to be a prevailing direction for most of our weather to move in from. We get to tell if merely a light rain is approaching or if we better get the tarps tied down fast.
All great info to keep an eye on and I find I am looking at the view often to know what’s coming.
I’ve had a few very close calls with lightning the last few years up here. I’ve been on many mountain lakes fishing as bad storms roll in, incredible to see but it will raise the hairs on your arms and neck. But aside from all that fishing in foul weather my closest calls both happened in my neck of the woods. I was up on a high, rocky lookout that faces North under the high tension wires B.C. Hydro put in this area. I get to look down a peaceful stretch of the Shuswap river as it curves through the little valley down there and was watching a storm roll in from the Enderby/Salmon Arm areas to the West. It was a good one, I could feel the energy in the air and the wind was fantastic. It really gets the ticker going!
After a few short minutes the lightning started. Up here it will be reaching the ground in spots making one feel like they are right in the middle of it all. Seeing the electricity arcing through the air at nearly eye level a half kilometer away is a sight to behold for sure. Until it gets to be right on top of you.. My boldness let me stay up there as it came right at me. I was in no hurry to go home and sit in the house, loving the storm, I just watched it come.
It was when a bolt shot down, lighting up the sky right above me in a bright white and blue burst, hitting the wires and following them from directly above me down to the next set of insulators. I am just guessing that it was a small discharge being that it didn’t harm the wire or continue down to light me up. I can tell you though that I was in the cab of my truck spinning tires and down the road before the instantaneous boom of thunder stopped. Haha. I had seen this happen again on my way down the hill heading home and that time it looked less of a strike and more like a gathering of energy from around the wires. From my second perspective I got a much better profile look at the phenomenon. Did’t slow me down any, I was out of there!
On my way home a patch of Sun was shining through and a huge double rainbow stretched out along the valley. It was brilliant and the one end looked to me to be right at the lookout I was enjoying and the other seemed to complete the arc right at my homestead. I took it as an omen that I was truly meant to go home. It gave me goose bumps all over again.
The second close one was just a bit Northwest of my place, about 3.5 km away. I was working in a 21 metric ton excavator doing silver culture work for a local mill. We were getting a cut block cleared of excess slash and seeding it with conifer seeds. My partner Mike was working a ways off nearby about 600 meters away. We try to keep an eye on each other in case of emergency, you never know when a fire might start or a guy tips over a machine, he might need help.
A lightning storm moved in fast, since this happens often I just kept working. The light show was pretty close this day and I saw a couple real close flashes, one in particular looked to go out from above and away from me.
Well a couple minutes go by and Mike comes up grinning and asked if I want to get off the mountain. “Did you see that bolt that almost hit you”? I figured why bother, the worst of the storm has already passed. He tells me that last bolt he saw came right down at me and turned away about 50 meters above my machine. Pretty damn close, I had seen the flash but I couldn’t tell just how close it came and how it turned away. So after some coaxing I agreed that it might be safest to come back when the storm was over to finish up. We would have been fine I am sure but why risk it? Our boss wouldn’t be terribly impressed if we let ourselves get hurt.
You never really know which way a storm will go and where the worst of it will strike so we get caught in it from time to time. Such is life, so we enjoy the good times when we can and laugh off the rough ones after conquer them. ~Scott