When Lightning Strikes Your Neighbor’s Yard

Yesterday we got a dry thunderstorm with lightning, loud rolling thunder and no rain. It was a bit spooky. The world outside my window was slightly overcast and damp, with thunder that seemed to roll around the horizon from one end to the other and lightning strikes growing closer and closer with a creepy swiftness. The power went out and came back on. It was quiet with intermittent lightning and thunder, a strange thing to hear without it being gentled somehow by the surrounding sound of rainfall.

I was typing at my desk by the office window when it happened. In a split second, two things: A bright camera-flash of white light that seemed both to emanate from one place and to instantly fill the whole yard, and the brutal, shockingly loud and very brief sound of an electrical explosion, just like what you hear when a transformer blows up.

I looked up out my office window. Green and silver leaves fluttered gently down from the tree that lies dead center in my sights from the window. They fluttered up and out and then drifted down, very peacefully, as if a child had tossed them up just to watch them come slowly back down.

Good god, I thought. My neighbor’s yard’s been struck by lightning. The struck tree was about 200 feet from where I sit.

I love drama and had hoped for falling trees, exploding trunks and limbs afire. But no such luck. The tree still stood and silence returned.

I went out to investigate. It’s a good thing there was no fire or trees falling over, for the struck tree was in the yard of my neighbor the elderly widow, whom I suspect has less taste for drama than I, and less time for foolishness.

Just like in the movies, the lightning had struck the tree’s base. The tree was old and dying, with few limbs and one already leafless and black. I touched its trunk but couldn’t even find a spot that was warm. The lightning had struck off the bark at the base 3/4 of the way around the tree and a good 8 feet up from the ground. Bark and white strips of sapwood lay around in ruler-sized bits for 50 feet in all directions.

I picked up a few pieces as souvenirs and walked back inside. Today I’ll ask my neighbor if she needs a little help cleaning up.

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