Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Struck by Lightning

No really, we were struck by lightning. The title's not a metaphor. (warning: this post has nothing to do with being a stay-at-home dad)

Saturday Megan and I were supposed to have an evening to ourselves, to reacquaint ourselves with the inside of a restaurant. But Clara developed a low fever so we cancelled our plans and settled in for another night of TiVo'd television or whatever Netflix sent us that week. The news had been reporting a series of storms heading our way, but if you live in the midwest you learn not to fret over approaching storms - or you'd be fretting most of your life.

I've always loved thunder storms with their dark and violent skies, whipping wind, and brilliant flashes. We didn't get too many in California and I spent the first few years here at the window when a storm came through. Power outages and hail damage are frequent here. Megan has a been-there-done-that attitude when it comes to storms. When we first moved here I watched a storm from our bedroom window, growing more and more uneasy at its violence. "I think this is a bad one, Meg." I think she said something like, "Welcome to Missouri." Turns out it was a bad one, and a funnel cloud did some damage not too far from us.

So we put the girls down for the night just before the storm rolled in. Again, I watched the flashes from the window for a while. Around 9pm the lightning strikes were getting closer and the thunder louder and louder. I made sure the flashlight was nearby and sat in front of my computer. Megan was in another part of the house when it struck. It wasn't deafening - it wasn't even loud. It had the crackle of an approaching bolt of lightning, but instead of a boom, we only heard a loud snap. (Our neighbors said they heard the boom, and it was deafening to them.) Lights and electronics went out, and then 2/3 of them came back on immediately. Sniffing the air, I caught a hint of ozone. I told Megan that I thought the house was hit.

We ran upstairs to check on the girls, both of us scared to death that if I was right, the house could be on fire somewhere. There was no sign of fire in the girls' rooms but in a corner of the attic I smelled the ozone again. Megan called 911 while I checked the outside of the house. Just out our front door I almost tripped over a brick on the ground, and noticed more bricks strewn about. A large urn flowerpot was on its side, several bricks around its base. I looked around confused - our house is made of wood, not brick. Shining the flashlight around the house I discovered the source: the side of our chimney had been blown away.

I have to admit, the shock of having our house hit by lightning, the destruction it caused, and its proximity to the girls' rooms had me pretty shaken up. In my mind, a small fire on the roof was just a second away from engulfing the house. Back upstairs, I opened the door to the guest room, the room closest to the strike - it reeked of ozone. We scooped up the girls and headed for the car. Luckily Clara didn't pick up on my fear and all the way to the car told me a story in a language only she knows, as if comforting me. She laughed as I held a jacket over our heads - we had our own little shelter from the storm still raging around us.

Megan and the girls pulled out just as the fireman army pulled up. Three large engines, several small trucks, and two ambulances showed up, and for a second I felt like the boy who cried wolf. My house wasn't even on fire. But the systematic way they used their equipment and manpower showed our fears were well founded. I stood by the fire chief while the captain inside gave the all-clear on a series of areas of the house, including the attic, the ductwork, and the electrical system. With each all-clear the chief released a couple of trucks until it was just one engine left while the firefighters checked the walls with thermal scanners. (They let me use the scanner - a cheap thrill.)

One of the firefighters remembered that our house had been hit a couple of years before, and made me feel real comfortable by insinuating that the house could be hit again that night. Oh and I should stay in the house that night in case anything happened. Thanks buddy.

The damage so far: a chimney that needs to be rebuilt, possible damage to the roof of our sun room, several electronics are blown, and we can't receive phone calls at the moment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that's insane. i'm so glad you guys are alright. you may want to invest in a lightning rod.