Storm Safety

Lots of thunderstorms rolled through Iowa over the past few days bringing high winds, hail, lightning, and even tornadoes.  While watching the radar, and listening to weather reports, I found myself wondering what I’d do if I was stuck out on the bike trail and a thunderstorm hit.

Fortunately with today’s smart phones, radar apps, and weather notifications, it’s easy to be aware of weather patterns before choosing to set off down the trail.  Timing a bike ride with good weather and being observant of it’s changes, is of course, the best way to avoid being on the trail with an approaching thunderstorm.

However, at times, the most seasoned trail riders can be taken by surprise by a quick moving storm.  Last year Eldon and Brigid Rocca, of Des Moines had a very scary experience while out on the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  Read about what happened on

If you do choose to ride on a day when thunderstorms are predicted, keep your route close to home, work, or your parked car.  Choose a route dotted with safe places to stop instead of long stretches of open trail.  Set, and adhere to, a reasonable turnaround time time so you'll be off the trail before storms develop.

Here are a few complied tips for staying safe if you’re unfortunate enough to be caught out in an summertime tempest:

  • Once you hear thunder find safety and stay there for at least 30 minutes after you've heard the last clap or rumble.

  • If you’re on a trail running through a wooded area find shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.  Stay away from tall trees.

  • When in an open area like where Eldon and Brigid were, find a low place such as a ravine or a ditch.

  • If you feel your hair stand on end make yourself as small as possible and minimize your contact with the ground.  Squat low and stand on the balls of your feet while placing your head between your legs and wrapping your arms around your legs.

The best (and easiest) strategy is to play it safe.  Manage your risks by making yourself aware of changing weather and avoid being caught out on a bike ride during a thunderstorm.

If you have other useful tips or suggestions not listed here, feel free to send them to

Happy Riding!