A cautionary tale: Take severe weather seriously

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One of the best parts of over-the-road trucking is when you have time to stop somewhere you’ve never been and explore places you’ve never seen. George and I spend a lot of time roaming around on foot – it’s good exercise and it gives us something to do besides sit in the truck and wait for time to pass. There’s always something new to do or see if you’re willing to take off and be a little adventurous.

Beware the man eating mosquito in Bachelor Mountain, Oregon.Beware the man eating mosquito in Bachelor Mountain, Oregon.

We spent time in several National Parks this time out. We hiked all around Oregon, spent time in Portland and explored the gardens and forests and generally had a ball. We saw some incredible things. We stopped on top of Mt. Bachelor in a little pull-off and seriously considered spending the night. We got out and stretched our legs and started to walk off into the woods when we were attacked by vicious and huge mosquitoes, who, after sucking out half our body’s blood supply in four seconds, physically lifted us and carried us back to the truck. When we awoke from the stupor of near- exsanguination, we decided it might not be a great idea to sleep anywhere there were life-threatening insects. (Half of that was probably a filthy lie, but the mosquitoes were huge and deadly, and you can bet on that.)

We were in some scary weather in Montana, and here’s where the cautionary part of this tale comes in. Lightning is no joke, folks. According to quick facts from National Geographic, it’s estimated that Earth as a whole is struck by an average of more than a hundred lightning bolts every second. The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Considering that the odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 5,000 (and probably exponentially higher for truckers because of their overall time in traffic and on the road) being struck by lightning is an actual concern that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

What happened to us happens all the time, and it’s the reason so many people in the U.S. get struck. A sudden storm blew up while we were goofing off and it took us totally by surprise. We had the relative safety of the truck to run to, but sometimes, the storms come and there’s nowhere to go. And that’s exactly what happened to our dear friends Justin and Becky, this past Friday.

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They were hiking at the Ute Pass in Colorado and a storm blew in quick. They were at almost 11,000 feet when the group they were with got struck. They had no warning, nowhere to go for shelter and Becky apparently took the worst hit, because it killed her. Justin got hurt bad and several others in the group were hospitalized. The Earth lost an awesome person last Friday, and the fact she was taken by a lightning strike is pretty unbelievable. It’s going to take a long time to process the idea of living on a planet without Becky. It’s going to take even longer to get over how it happened.

There’s a lot of information on how to be safe in a storm. The NOAA site offers this tip: When thunder roars, go indoors. If you have any indicators, it’s always best to be safe and seek shelter. Truck-stop parking lots are generally large, flat open areas and absolutely no place to be outside during a lightning storm. Summer weather, especially out West, is unpredictable sometimes, there are several free weather apps you can download that have warning networks. We use WeatherBug, and it’s just another tool in the arsenal for our safety out on the road.

Rest in peace, Becky. You will be, and already are being, missed terribly.

Editor’s note: Find a video interview with Justin via this news site. 

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