A post on Facebook by meteorologist Chris Tomer shows the effect of a highly charged atmosphere on the top of Colorado 14ers. Not somewhere I’d like to be in a lightning storm!
11:00 am on Saturday, July 6, 2019: The atmosphere was charged with electricity on 14ers Evans and Princeton (& likely others). Hair was standing on end and hikers were running for safety. One of the hikers from Evans personally shared their story with me. 11:00 am is early for lightning but not unheard of in July-August, Monsoon season. Since 1980, there have been 20 lightning casualties in Colorado before Noon.
14ers like Princeton block your view of inbound weather from the west until you’re nearing the summit ridge. And, sometimes it doesn’t require a full-blown mature thunderstorm to generate electricity on high points.
What does it mean when your hair is standing on end? You’re part of the circuit being created by the thunderstorm. A spider’s web of electricity is “stepping up” towards the thunderstorm. It then decides whether to complete the circuit. Taller objects become the primary target. Photo from Ally Ondechek on Mount Princeton July 6, 2019.