getting caught in a storm

i look at weather charts and wind forecasts, but i found they still dont predict reliably local spouts, violent winds & lightning strikes .
I have been caught unaware a number of times , last around 10 minutes. luckily they found me either setting up or putting the kayak away on the car & not out on the lakes.

is there any thing you keep an eye out for in the sky regard local conditions? having a few minutes warning would make a lot of difference.
limiting kayaking to only when there is high pressure would mean staying home most of the time : (


Prior to going I monitor several weather channels, but I know what you mean about the unknown.
I always keep a VHF radio with me and I not only turn it on to the weather when I see threatening clouds in the distance, but I also head to the closest island or land.

Clouds don’t give you an instantaneous “weather report”. But watching over time can give you a good idea of what’s likely to happen in the near future.

I find this is only a big issue for longer crossings. I don’t have a problem with most weather when I’m close to a shoreline. Hell, I’ve paddled down rivers in a full-blown thunderstorm.

Occasionally look over your shoulder…
We were montering VHF when a storm came up behind us worst storm I’ve seen on the water, we were able to hide in the mangroves. After the storm passed us it arrived at the VHF reporting station and we then received a warning.

I’ve been paddling on the east coast for 30 years or so (Long Island Sound and inland Georgia with occasional excursions to the coast). I don’t recall that I’ve ever been caught totally off guard. Of course, I check the weather before I go but that can indeed be deceptive, especially for pop-up summer storms. When that happens, I feel like I always have a good 15 min warning…first from the appearance of darker clouds in the distance, then the air cools, then it gets windy, then light rain…all preceding the main event. With 15 min, one ought to be able to paddle a mile or so, maybe a little less and I’m almost never more than a mile from shore. What HAS happened to me at least a couple of times that I recall is after I make a crossing to a barrier island for a multi-day camping trip, the forecast changes. I’ve had to hole up for 2-3 days longer than expected to let a weather system pass before attempting a return trip. That’s taught me to always pack more food and water than I think I need.

Can you see the horizon where storms are likely coming from? For ex in Maine I keep an eye on the sky to the west, regardless of what the NOOA said before I left. Also to the south but that is a fog thing, not likely an issue for you. As mentioned above, a good read of the clouds can tell you if you are seeing weather that is 4 hours away or much longer.

yes i recall this feeling:
“i always have a good 15 min warning …then the air cools, then it gets windy, then light rain…all preceding the main event”
turning the water into a foaming couldron of waves.

i have been lucky so far to watch this happen from land. I am looking for signals that i can sense, or that maybe birds like sea gulls can sense…

Front country you can check the radar on the phone. And vhf often has warnings. But I always “nowcast” every 15 to 30 minutes to guess what the weather might be doing; staying the same, deteriorating, or improving. And always check the horizon if available, often you can see bad weather coming in, and have time to get somewhere protected. Was taught to navigate from protection to protection, and keep exposure time to a minimum.

Good tips I always have VHF weather on before I leave in boat or yak.

Go early. Most summer storms are afternoon events.

It came with no warning, no notification on the radio from behind an Island…

Lake Superior/ The Apostle Islands, between Cat Island and Outer Island

Outer Island , The Apostle Islands, Lake Superior

Fantastic picture. That’s a beautifully nasty looking storm!

I experienced an “instant fog” event on Lake Superior not too long ago. I saw it rolling in like a wall, had enough time to get some bearings to land, then I was enveloped and couldn’t see 100m in front of me. 30 minutes later it was clear again.

i found this alternative definition, which infers that in a high pressure zone you can safely paddle out on long journeys.
But what i am wondering about is the definition of “fringe”,

“In a LOW or depression air converges. Air ascends. Provided sufficient moisture is present clouds form and rain follows. In a “High” air descends. Descending air cannot produce clouds; they will melt. So where a “HIGH” is shown no rain will occur. At the fringe of a “High” if moist air confronts, very severe thundershowers could occur.”

taking this example, is Lake Erie in the High Pressure Zone or on the fringe?

(taken from

about this black cloud which developed out of no where, i have read that air masses which are no where near the front, can create clouds sometimes from contact with warm ground or warm sea

my question is this, can this happen in the airmass in a region of high pressure? i am trying to ascertain if there are any exceptions to good weather in a high pressure zone. thanks

If you are on the edge of a very strong high and a very strong low…winds travel clockwise from one and counterclockwise from the other. …Your on the line between…so your barometer might show high…or so you think…You can have an extremely strong interaction between the two. STORM!!!

Twice in the same place, years apart.
Paddling the ICW at Hilton Head.
Nice afternoon then ugly storms popped up over the ocean and the mainland.
Caught in a storm sandwich. Lots of wind and rain but the lightening had stopped by the time it got to us.

On schedule.