Always check weather for outdoor ventures


Trusting completely in a weather forecast can be an iffy proposition. Anyone who has spent considerable time outdoors knows weather conditions can and do change unexpectedly and rapidly, so failing to double-check the weather forecast before leaving on an outdoor adventure is a foolish misstep at best. Failing to plan for the possibilities is another.

With so many tools available today, there is no excuse for not having some idea of what nature might be cooking up in the weather kitchen. Those tools include everything from your local news broadcast or newspaper to the Internet and applications for smartphones and tablets. With a 3G- or 4G-capable mobile device, you can get up-to-the-minute weather information anywhere that device can access the system.

When checking the weather forecast from home, I prefer to use the National Weather Service website (www.weather.gov). This no-frills site has only what you need to know and is free from annoying advertisements. Best of all, it is easy to use. All you have to do is enter the name or ZIP code of the location for which you need the information, or you can point your cursor to a location on a map of the United States and click the appropriate button on your mouse. Using the map feature also allows you to select remote locations such as Sunnyside and the Kirch Wildlife Management Area.

As of this writing, those of you heading to Sunnyside for the holiday weekend will find high temperatures in the mid-70s and lows near 40 degrees. The weekend will start with clear skies but shift to partly cloudy conditions by Saturday evening. Boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts whose destination is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area will find high temperatures nearing 100 degrees and nighttime lows near 70. Expect windy conditions Friday afternoon.

Now that you are armed with that information, what are you going to do with it?

Unfortunately, experience has taught me that some people will ignore it, but those with a little wisdom will make plans accordingly. One summer day during my game warden days, a boater flagged me down and asked for my day’s supply of water. While he and his friends had remembered to bring plenty of beer, they somehow had neglected to throw in some water and now found themselves in an uncomfortable situation.

On another occasion, I accompanied a group of Boy Scouts on an overnight hike during which they were to construct and sleep in a survival shelter. The sky was clear, and all seemed well, so, as young men often do, the scouts became caught up in their fun and neglected to build their shelters. Sometime in the middle of the night, as often happens at high elevation, rain began to fall. It wasn’t long before a soaking-wet Scout pulled my tarp back and said emphatically, “I want to go home!”

I couldn’t understand the urgency. After all, I was warm and dry.

Given what we know today, if you are going to Sunnyside, take a coat and hat because 40 degrees is getting close to the 30s and the sunshine during the day will give you a good sunburn. If you are going to Lake Mead, pack sunscreen and plenty of water, and don’t forget the hat or shade structure.

By the way, if you are found to be operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, you will get a free night’s stay in the Clark County Detention Center. Water and sports drinks probably should be your beverages of choice. And keep in mind that the weather can change, so be prepared for the possibilities.

Whatever your weekend plans, give a responsible adult a copy of your trip plan. Include details about your destination, when you plan to leave and return and who is going with you. And don’t forget the description and license plate numbers for all vehicles you and your group will be using. If the unthinkable happens, this information will help rescuers find you.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.