(HELENA) Warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours of Spring bring a lot of people out of winter’s hibernation.
However, it is that same warm air and sunshine that destabilizes the atmosphere, producing severe weather and thunderstorms. Severe weather refers to any dangerous meteorological phenomena with the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption, or loss of human life.
In the Spring and Summer months here in Montana, our severe weather is mostly caused by thunderstorms. Lightning, powerful micro-burst winds, heavy rain resulting in flash flooding, large hail, and even a tornado are possible forms of severe weather brought on by thunderstorms.
Montana has the third highest rate of lightning fatalities per 1 million people in the country. Colorado is first, Wyoming is second. Since 1959, about 30 people have been killed by lightning in Montana. Lightning can extend 10 miles out from a thunderstorm, so basically if you can hear thunder, you could be struck by lightning. The saying goes “when thunder roars, head indoors.” Get away from metal objects and tall tress. If you are above tree line, get lower immediately. As a last resort, if lightening is popping all around you, get down in a crouching position on the balls of your feet, and cover your head.
Montana averages 10 tornadoes a year, with most activity out across the plains. However, severe thunderstorms had spawn twisters just about anywhere, even in the mountains.
The best way to enjoy the outdoors safely is to be aware of the weather forecast. Know before you go, and while you are out enjoying Montana beauty, keep an eye to the sky.