Spared By Lightning?

Note to self: Be careful while photographing lightning.

          Late last night, I was aware of an approaching thunderstorm. I needed to be sleeping since I worked early the next day, but knew that if the weak trickle of thunderbolts approaching happened to intensify, I should attempt to photograph them. It didn’t seem as though that was going to happen, but in a matter of minutes, the flashes of lightning became intense, frequent, and surrounding.  I grabbed my camera, and went upstairs.
          In a haze of flashing light, I cranked open the top story window and prepped the camera for placement. I needed to loop the strap around the window handle so the camera couldn’t drop if it were bumped through accidentally. In the process, my finger brushed the metal handle, and as it did, a blue spark flashed to my hand like a large static shock.
         The thought on my mind at that instant was a mixture of mild confusion in what was happening, but calm in the normalcy of having experienced static shock hundreds of times before in life. It was as the room lit up with a continuation of blue flashing that I realized this was a direct result of the lightning storm, and I seemed to be at the periphery of a lightning blast. The neighborhood then went dark for a moment in a brief power outage as thunder smashed through the walls and cieling. 




A photograph taken moments after the event captures the chaos and intesity of the electrical storm.


          Did I experience a lightning strike? Was my digital camera fried? It seemed to be OK. The realization of this event was exhilarating, but frightening. I stepped back for a moment, then remembered that there were some amazing blasts to try and capture with the camera. I went again to the window to repeat the process. As I touched the window frame again, I felt the tingle of electricity. “OK, I’m getting out of here,” I thought, as sense was beginning to take over and I couldn’t deny that the situation was unsafe.

          The place was truly surrounded by an intense electrical storm. I got on the phone to warn some friends who were camping in a tent an hour away. It was no doubt irritating to wake them up so late, but I was concerned for anyone who would have been directly exposed to this concentration of lightning. I encouraged them to take shelter.

          I don’t know for sure if I was zapped by lightning. I know that the sky has a lot of energy to discharge and was probably unloading some electricity on our house, contemplating a full-on burst of lightning wherever it would find the path of least resistance. If our house would have been ground zero for the bolt, I probably wouldn’t be writing this, but somewhere at that moment, the lightning seemed to be within reach. The reality of this was evident. A few minutes later, a house was reportedly hit by lightning and the fire department dispatched since the smell of smoke had filled the home.

          I’m not sure if I was the hunter or the hunted. I took dozens of shots later into the night, but this time, I didn’t capture that bolt of lightning, only an interesting story to tell.


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