National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Hit While Closing Metal Framed Screen Door on Patio


My story falls under the category of "Ironic."

It was my last day of living in Florida. I was in career transition, leaving the Chief Meteorologist post at WJKS in Jacksonville to become the weekend Meteorologist at WEWS in Cleveland.

It was a typical late-summer Saturday afternoon. The cumulus towers were starting to build and the thunderstorms would soon arrive. The moving vans had just departed and we were putting the final touches on cleaning the house. My job: Vacuuming the living room.

I heard the first clap of thunder and then the downpour began. (For those of you that have never experienced an afternoon thunderstorm in Florida, here's how they typically work: There's lightning and thunder, torrential rain, and occasional gusty winds, all which lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. Then the sun comes out. It's not really a cooling rain, it just makes things more humid.)

This particular thunderstorm would have been of no concern, but we had a screened-in back porch and I had left one of the windows open, so the torrential downpour was now soaking the porch's indoor/outdoor carpet. So, I shut off the vacuum, opened the sliding glass door, walked across, reached over and grabbed firmly onto the metal window frame to shut it. It was at that point I looked and saw all the little hairs were standing up on my wrist. I thought to myself, "Self, now would be a good time to get out of here."

The next thing I know I'm back in the living room! Flat on my back. My oldest son,“ who was two and a half at the time, was standing over my face. He said, "Daddy, that was funny. Do it again!" Normally I'd laugh, but I couldn't talk. In fact I was, in the immortal words of Led Zeppelin, dazed and confused.

Just then the door flew open and my next door neighbor ran in and asked if everyone was OK. He saw me on the floor and started to assess. (He was a Sheriff's Officer.) He started asking me a bunch of questions and when I finally spoke I asked, "What happened?" He said, "You must have been struck by lightning. I saw your house get hit. That's why I came over."

I sat there for a few moments and finally declared, "There's no way I got struck by lightning. I'M A METEOROLOGIST!" (I really said that.)
Luckily, I survived. No major damage except for a burn on my back where (we surmised) the lightning went up and out of me. The real irony? I was on the Duval County Board of Lightning Safety.

I was lucky enough to along pass this story (and act it out) to a couple of thousand school classrooms over my 20+years on television. Every so often I will run into one of those students who is now all grown up. To a person, they all remember "The Lightning Story" and my lightning safety lessons: When you hear thunder, go inside. When you're inside: No baths or showers, stay off any non-cellular phones and don't hang on to any metal window frames.