The backyard Fourth of July barbeque (July 4, 2016), will be a day, that will be remembered for a long time by the six witnesses on the back porch, the four to six people on the front porch and the six or eight other family members that were inside the home of Just Us Enterprises, the Emergency Disaster Preparedness supplier.

The Cookout

Courtesy (tumblr_oabs1z8rxF1sjl3qko1_1280)
Courtesy (tumblr_oabs1z8rxF1sjl3qko1_1280)

It started out as a beautiful day to have friends and family together for the traditional Fourth of July barbeque. The sun was shining with some clouds and a gentle breeze. Guests were scattered inside and outside the home, socializing and catching up. Bits of potato chips on the floor overlooked, as something that a guest is holding seems more appealing to the family dog. Lively chatter from the back porch indicates a friendly conversation with dabs of laughter. Some were cute as they sat next to their young loves in the living room (trying to avoid the adults). The adventurous mingled out to the front porch where there was a bit of a breeze on this hot July afternoon.

The hot dogs replaced cheeseburgers on the grill, salads, condiments, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, chips, paper plates and everything else was ready in anticipation of an enjoyable cookout. The frankfurters, however, seemed reluctant to cook, as dark skies were suddenly fast approaching. I remember thinking, “I should have enough time to cook these and be inside the (covered, screened in) porch before it starts to rain.” Nope, the rain had a different idea. Just as I started taking the wieners from the grill the sky dumped out. All at once! Before all of the hot dogs were taken off the grill, the incredible amount of rain that fell started to steam clean the grill. This storm was moving in fast from the southwest going northeast and right toward us.

There was some thunder, and an occasional lightning flash. Nothing significant enough to worry about, at least that is what we thought. We finished eating and returned to all the various places that the groups congregated in and continued our festivities. The quick moving storm caused the rain to change direction and decided to come from the northeast. Then, while we were shifting about to avoid the deluge, lightning hit really, really, close. Unconcerned, we went back, to adjusting our chairs and conversing when shortly after, there was this flash/boom.


There were six family members on the  screened in back porch when the lightning struck. The front porch had about four to six people who also witnessed the unexpected lightning strike. The flash made all of us look at the neighbor’s house; the boom seemed to go unnoticed because both the strike and the boom happened at the same time. Those inside heard an electrical buzz as the TVs and electronics were categorically fried. We surmised, later on, the main lightning bolt hit the home of Just Us Enterprises first and then the bolt split in two. The other arm of the split lightning bolt is what we watched hit the neighbor’s house after it struck ours.

The branch of the bolt that split off from the main bolt is what we watched hit the house next door, which was vacant at the time. We watched this thin electric finger appear from invisibility and touch near the peak of the house. The houses in the area generally have vinyl siding and aluminum trim. When lightning struck the house next door, the trim appeared to visibly pop out and away from it. Actually, the trim did separate from the house as evidenced by the nails that hold the aluminum fascia on. The nails were almost completely removed out of the wood they were nailed into. The heads of the nails and fasteners were charred and burnt and the aluminum trim bent.

We were all so mesmerized by watching the lightning show; nobody even thought that we were hit! I watched the area where the first two nails blast out of the fascia board with about the flash intensity of a cherry bomb (or something slightly larger) and a shower of sparks in the torrential rain. Then the bolt quickly disappeared and reappeared about 8 feet further down where, again another blast of light and again nails popped out and another shower of sparks, but the third time was a little different.

Ball Lightning

Some of the bolt traveled down to the downspout and the rest created a fireball. The fireball escaped from behind the aluminum covering and fell to the ground after it split a second time. It was about the size of a partially deflated beach ball. The center bottom was a brilliant white and from that came uneven concentric layers (mostly on the top and sides of the white center) with colorful reds, oranges and yellows. What a beautiful display. The rain was pouring so intensely and created such a deluge that there was already a couple of inches of water on the ground. As soon as the ball of light and flames hit the flooded ground, the fire display was over too. Naturally, we scrambled into the main part of the house for the duration of the thunderstorm.

One Lightning Bolt, Two Houses Struck

Lightning Strike, notice the shingle is vertical and the tiny splinters of roofing and fascia.
Lightning Strike, notice the shingle is vertical and the tiny splinters of roofing and fascia.

We waited for the storm to pass, which it did as abruptly as it arrived, about a half hour later. My brother-in-law and I went to check on any damage on the house next door. We thought it was minor until we spotted the hole in our roof. Directly above where we were sitting when it hit us. The hole was big enough to put your hand thru and left debris strewn about the attic. The shingles were scorched and melted; the underlayment had softball and larger fragments blown clean away and the siding was in hundreds of tiny bits and pieces. The fire department believed the torrential rain that was occurring during the strike must have put out the flames and kept the melting, smoldering shingles and roof from burning. The lightning strike stopped almost directly (about six feet) above my head from where I was standing up at the time. We were never aware of what was happening, literally, right over our heads until we walked back from next door.

The covered screened in porch seemed like a safe place out of the rain. Safe, that is, until you realize how quickly everything happened. The deluge of rain came in horizontally and flooded the concrete floor. The screened in area is aluminum clad and I was at the entrance to the dining room when the lightning struck. If the lightning came just a little closer or a little lower, we all would have been like bugs in a bug zapper.

Maybe we did get a little jolt or maybe we didn’t. The main thing is that we all survived without any major physical injuries. Everything else that we lost is replaceable, inconvenient, but replaceable. It is worth mentioning, not all of those in attendance for the cook-out went to see the man-made local fireworks display later that evening.

The point of this is that we never know when a disaster, an emergency, or a lightning strike will occur. Some things, such as an act of violence or hurricane can be prepared for. Other things happen so lightning fast (pun intended) that you cannot prepare for it. However, having preparedness supplies on hand and ready to go can possibly save a life or at least make the crisis more comfortable.

Check out our website. Just Us Enterprises is the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness company that provides products at reasonable prices for your readiness, in the probable event of a catastrophic occurrence. We ship anywhere in the United States, Hawaii and Alaska may incur additional shipping charges.

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