Give lightning some distance, because a bolt packs quite a jolt

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

As the 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 fall, the sky darkens and periodic flashes of lightning and accompanying thunder drew closer.

Without warning, it sounded as if 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 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 $2,000. Fortunately, homeowners 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 damage 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 10 steps of our garage.

Lightning is something that can be deadly. A typical lightning flash is about 300 million volts and about 30,000 amps. In comparison, the 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 the 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 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.


Congratulations to our outdoors columnist, Glynn Harris, for adding to his legendary awards stash in the recently-announced Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association writing contest.

LOWA celebrated its 75th-anniversary last weekend with its annual convention in Thibodaux. Excellence in Craft awards were presented and Harris collected three articles he wrote for various publications before joining the Natchitoches Parish Journal this spring.

He won first and third-place awards for his syndicated articles and a first in the “magazine short story” category. A Goldonna native and proud Northwestern State University graduate, Harris is one of the most acclaimed outdoors writers in LOWA history.

Harris is a weekly contributor to the Natchitoches Parish Journal, with his column appearing every Friday.

Contact Glynn at