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June 25. 2013 8:11PM

NH camp directors take lightning 'very, very seriously'

Camp Pemigewassett in Wentworth employs an assistant director who obsesses over the weather radar, and the camp is prepared to ferry campers in mini-buses if thunderstorms strike.

"We called off a trip today because of (weather) concerns," camp director Danny Kerr said Tuesday.Thunderstorms are a possibility every day through July 3 for parts of New Hampshire, according to AccuWeather.com.

Gus Planchet, president of the New Hampshire Camp Directors Association, said camps throughout the state take safety seriously, developing contingency plans and monitoring weather conditions.
Membership in the American Camp Association requires camps to have an advance plan for severe weather, according to Planchet, who also is the camp director at Camp Fatima in Gilmanton.
"At the first sign of thunder or lightning, we have what's called a callback. The kids are pulled off the field and brought to the cabins or main buildings," Planchet said.

He added: "If someone was out on the lake, our pontoon boat (or power boat) would go out and collect the kids."

The Lakes Region camp has a wooden structure at the waterfront to shelter the kids, Planchet said.

On Monday, a thunderstorm came through around dinner time with thunder and lightning and the kids weren't allowed to cross the field, he said.

"When it comes to thunderstorms ... I don't want to see anyone outside," Planchet said. "You can have even a small thunderstorm and you can still get a bolt of lightning come out of nowhere. We're very cautious."Kerr doesn't expect Monday night's lightning strike at the Boy Scout camp in Gilmanton to trigger any changes at the camp in the White Mountains. On the day that campers arrive, they are told about the camp's warning system, which calls for campers to be sheltered during storms.

Campers are kept inside until 30 minutes after the last time thunder is heard, Kerr said.

"We never have anyone outside if we think there's any chance of severe weather," he said. "We have people who monitor those things and we take it very, very seriously."

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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