/ NEWSFLASH: Lightning Strike Kills at Least 3 in Polish Tatra Mountains
Lightning struck a 15 metre high metal cross that marks the summit of Poland's Giewont summit with an elevation of 1,894m. Initial reports on the BBC website and other media outlets suggest that at least 3 people have been killed and 22 injured in the strike.
Number is apparently 5 now. Very sad.
I have been up there, and even if you had a few minutes advance warning, as I recall you have to single-file it out (there is a one-way route up and one-way down).
I'm not sure that NEWSFLASH was the best choice of word.
Latest reports and Polish news put the numbers as five dead (both Polish and Slovak side combined) and more than 30 injured, some credible sources talking even about 140 injured...
Very grim news from the Tatras.
Good grief. Tragic news.
According to the BBC report the strike passed down the chains used on the route hence the very high number of casualties.
I just checked and https://www.summitpost.org/a-week-of-challenge-in-winter-tatras/280357 this mountain does indeed have chains. I can't imagine why they would be connected to a 15m cross! Or close enough for the current to jump to them?
> Or close enough for the current to jump to them?
Yes. Think about the large gap it's just jumped across to hit the summit.
Hadnt seen this. Just deleted a duplicate post. I was wondering if there had been any similar instances on via ferrata or other equipped routes. Chains seemed fairly ubiquitous when i was in the Tatras
Yes. Pit Schubert's classic book on alpine safety has an entire chapter on thunderstorms in the mountains. Bottom line: you do not only have to consider the point where the lightning strikes, but also the path that the current will take down the flank of the mountain.
Via ferratas are obviously particularly bad places to be in as they are a nicely paved path of least resistance, even if the lighting struck quite a bit higher up. As an interesting and counter-intuitive aside, sitting a thunderstorm out in a cave or underneath an overhang can be more dangerous than staying outside in the rain, depending on the dimensions and location of the cave. Reason: the current might decide to take the shortcut through your body instead of taking the long way through the back of the cave.
If you get caught in a thunderstorm in the mountains (which you should of course avoid in the first place) then a relatively safe place in terms of lightning strikes would be an open hill side well below any ridges.
When I walked up Giewont 20 years ago whilst in Zakopane, I remember feeling nervous as a large storm approached due to the metal cross and chains and a strange buzzing feeling in the air. The summit was packed so I raced off the summit to avoid getting caught in a bottleneck at the chains in a thunderstorm.
From memory, the chains were just to help walkers get up some polished slabs to reach the summit.
Apart from having to race off the summit to avoid the storm, it was an enjoyable walk, particularly past some nice Alpinesque meadows at the bottom. The scenery on the Polish side was somewhat different to the more Dolomitic scenery on Slovakian side of the Tatry.
> As an interesting and counter-intuitive aside, sitting a thunderstorm out in a cave or underneath an overhang can be more dangerous than staying outside in the rain, depending on the dimensions and location of the cave. Reason: the current might decide to take the shortcut through your body instead of taking the long way through the back of the cave.
You essentially become the electrode in a giant spark plug gap....
> Yes. Pit Schubert's classic book on alpine safety has an entire chapter on thunderstorms in the mountains.
As an aside (sorry for the OT), did it finally get translated to English? I thought original German and some other languages (Polish, Czech, ...) only?
There are so many sources of weather forecast information available on the web that I think it's hard to tell which is the most relevant/ reliable. Maybe we need to manage mountain weather information in a "better" more formalised way?
Not that I am aware of, I'm afraid. I have the German version.
How would you do that? As essentialy that is what defines mountain weather - it's not very reliable. It's a chaotic system, impossible to predict exactly. Even the best detailed computer weather models can be off by a few hours or few valleys/ridges, and predictability of any detailed forecast in the mountains is very low.
Much better to educate people how to interpret weather forecasts, how to plan mountain tours (and even Giewont is a mountain tour), importance of starting early in the summer (afternoon storms from thermals can form very quickly) or bail if they are getting late. Just normal mountaineering common sense.
Thanks. A pity, it was still an interesting read, even with my (poor) German skills.
Frank i'm just talking about presenting the information in a more user friendly manner which is ultimately a software problem.
When I google weather information i get back a plethora of conflicting results. The question I'm asking is "how does a user know what information is relevant for their need?". The answer is that they do not.