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Lightning strikes serve as warning to be prepared

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SALT LAKE CITY — A 24-year-old hiker struck by lightning over the weekend was in good condition Monday night at University Hospital's burn unit.

Outdoors experts say his injury, and the death of another Utahn less than a week before, should serve as reminders of how dangerous summer thunderstorms can be.

The 24-year-old man was struck Sunday evening while hiking in Summit County. As of Monday night, his name hadn't been released.

Less than a week before, on July 23, 24-year-old Jesse King was fishing in Garfield County when he was struck and killed by lightning. He and his dog sought shelter under a tree when a thunderstorm rolled in.

While these incidents are tragic, outdoors experts hope they also prompt people to make sure we know what to do if they're caught in a sudden storm. REI assistant manager Greg Varnese has a few tips.

"You definitely want to get rid of your backpack," he said. "It has metal frames, usually. (They're) tracking polls. Get rid of those."

He recommends putting your items at least 15 feet away. And if you have time, hike down the mountain; if not, find a group of trees to hide under. But steer clear of picnic areas and the lone tree.

Then, wait in the proper position. "Keep your feet together," Varanese explained. "You're going to want to squat down and put your head between your knees."

The National Weather Service says the odds of being struck by lightning are one in a million. So, while there's a realistic chance it could happen, Varanese said that doesn't mean you should be afraid of the trails.

"Get out there and have fun," he said. "Don't let the weather affect you."

The best time to hike is in the morning, Varanese added, because storms are most likely to hit in the afternoon.

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Devon Dolan


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