A fast-moving storm turned deadly in Rocky Mountain National Park Friday afternoon after lightning struck near a group of hikers, killing a woman and injuring seven others.
The hikers were on the Ute Crossing Trail, which is above the timberline at over 11,000 feet. One of the victims told sister station KCNC that the storm blew in fast, and his hiking group was trying to get back to their vehicle when lightning struck. He said he and his wife were knocked off their feet by the strike. Both sustained minor injuries.
Park staff said that most of the injured were able to drive themselves to the hospital, but that two people did have to be transported by ambulance.
The woman who died was not in the same group as the seven injured. As of this report her identity has not been released.
The park states on their website that lightning strikes are common within the park, and has caught hikers off-guard each year--sometimes with lethal consequences.
"Trail Ridge Road is a popular, high altitude highway that puts visitors in the midst of active storm areas. Leave the car or van and walk out on the treeless tundra and you’re probably the tallest thing in the neighborhood," the website states. Trail Ridge Road is the nation's highest continuously paved road, and the trail the hikers were on Friday runs off of it.
The website offers the following advice to hikers to help prevent lightning hazards:
-Start your hike early and wrap it up before noon. Most thunderstorms in the Rockies occur in the afternoon.
-Take note of the sky before starting your hike to make sure you don't see any developing thunderclouds.
-If hiking and a storm starts, descend as quickly as possible. If that's not an option, crouch down with your hands on your knees and keep your head low. Discard all packs and metal items, and get them as far away from you as possible.
The National Weather Service offers a few more tips:
-Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top
-Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects, If in a forest, stand near shorter trees.
-Stay away from water or wet items