Lightning Bolt Hits Close to Home

By: Glynn Harris

The folks at the TV station had cautioned us about the possibility of thunderstorms in our area one morning a year or so ago. Okay so we had been warned so while we kept our eyes on the skies, life around our house was continuing as normal.

As rain began falling, I made sure our garage door was closed and I settled down with my morning coffee inside rather than taking my usual treasured spot on the back porch. Kay was folding laundry as we watched the rain and the sky darken and periodic flashes of lightning and accompanying thunder drew closer.

Without warning, it was like a bomb detonated inside our house. The explosion was ear splitting and with all the tall pines around our house, we knew that a bolt had to have struck one of them.
Recovering from the blast, I cautiously stepped into the garage to begin assessing the damage. Strangely, the garage door I had closed only moments ago had opened by itself. Hitting the switch to close it, nothing happened; the bolt had knocked out the remote control.

Next, I checked our alarm system; it was also dead. The biggie though was when we activated the central air system and it was inoperative.

The sum total of damages resulted in replacement and repair costs approaching $2000. Fortunately, home owners insurance paid a portion but we had to pay the difference.

I began a search later that day for the tree that lightning had struck to cause such damages to our home. It was not until several weeks later that I noticed the tell-tale results of a dying tree, the little white globs of resin that begin showing up once a tree begins it demise. Bugs had started working on the tree that lightning had struck, a tall pine that stood within ten steps of our garage.

Lightning is something that can be deadly according to a source I found. A typical lightning flash is about 300 million volts and about 30,000 amps. In comparison, household current is 120 volts and 15 amps. Wow, no wonder we experienced damage when it hit a tree so close to our house.

When lightning strikes a tree, water in the cells instantly begins to boil, creating steam and the expanding steam can explode, cracking or stripping off bark.

Another source said that lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the U.S. Did you know you can be struck by lightning when the center of the thunderstorm is 10 miles away?

Several years ago, I witnessed the aftermath of a lightning strike on a big oak at Lincoln Parish Park. The tree was virtually blown apart with strips of bark catapulted several yards from the trunk.

On another occasion, hay was being baled in the pasture across the road from our home with round bales on the ground waiting for pick-up. A bolt of lightning struck one of the bales and I watched in amazement during a heavy rainstorm as the bale had caught fire and was burning.

This is the time of year when folks are out on the lake fishing, boating or skiing and it’s also the time when thunderstorms can crop up quickly. If skies darken and the rumble of thunder is heard, it’s time to leave the water and seek shelter until the storm passes.

Lightning can be deadly and can do strange things, like causing a garage door to open by itself or setting a hay bale on fire.


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