Lightning strike spares Cloquet familyAda Reynolds knows she had a narrow escape last Thursday -- the evidence surrounds her house in Cloquet’s Sunnyside neighborhood.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Ada Reynolds knows she had a narrow escape last Thursday -- the evidence surrounds her house in Cloquet’s Sunnyside neighborhood.
Reynolds was standing in a screen house on the deck when lightning struck a large pine tree in the back yard, blasting parts of the tree into pieces ranging from finger-sized splinters to shards several feet long. Pieces flew over and onto the house and into the neighbor’s yard.
But nothing hit the screen house or the back door, where Reynold’s son was standing by the screen door, urging his mother inside.
Reynold’s other son, Charles Johnson -- who was in the garage with his dad -- described the experience:
“Just after 6 p.m. came a flash and the loudest bang I’ve ever heard,” Johnson stated. “Ten feet behind the house, 15 feet from the screen house, a 38-year-old balsam [pine] was struck by lightning. Pieces of wood, bark and branches were thrown around the house, up on the house and over the house to land in the front yard. The tree had been reduced to kindling.”
Reynolds said she saw smoke and a bright blue flash when the lightning struck. No one was injured as a result of the lightning strike, fortunately, although the entire block was without power for an hour and a half.
The National Weather Service calls lightning the “most underrated” weather hazard.
“On average, only floods kill more people,” the NWS page on lightning safety touts. “Lightning makes every single thunderstorm a potential killer, whether the storm produces one single bolt or 10,000 bolts. … Tornadoes, hail and wind gusts get the most attention, but only lightning can strike outside the storm itself. Lightning in the first thunderstorm hazard to arrive and the last to leave.”
The safest place to go during a thunderstorm, according to the NWS, is inside a large enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring, including shopping centers, schools, office buildings and homes. That’s because if lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity more efficiently than the human body.
Buildings that are not safe include dugouts, metal sheds, picnic pavilions, carports, porches and, of course, screen houses. Vehicles with open cabs or convertibles are not safe (even with the top up), although enclosed metal vehicles are considered a decent place to shelter. Remember if you are inside a vehicle, roll the windows up and avoid contact with any conducting paths leading to the outside of the vehicle such as the radio or ignition.
Johnson said the whole experience was amazing.
“It’s hard to imagine somebody surviving a lightning strike when you see what it can do to a solid evergreen tree,” he said.
“I’m just glad we didn’t go with a gas furnace last winter,” said his mom.