National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Partially Enclosed Buildings Are NOT Safe!


I live in Middle Tennessee. My boyfriend, Ed, and I were out riding our horses with about 20 other friends. It was a sunny morning and I didn't realize it was expected to storm later since I didn't check the weather. My first mistake. Ironically I have always been petrified of thunderstorms and lightning. I have been caught in them before on horseback. 

We headed out about 11 am. By 2 pm it was turning cloudy and the breeze was up. We found ourselves in an open valley with a big cattle barn. We all got under the overhang with a metal roof and which was open on three sides. I thought we were safe there. Now I know it was probably more dangerous. Thunder started and cattle came up out of nowhere but we were in their shelter so they were just outside. The interior wall was wood but had some metal in it also. Ed leaned up against the wall and I backed up against him with his arm around my waist. His horse was standing in front of us untied about 3 feet away. This is what I remember.

I first heard the lightning unbelievably loud; the sound filled my whole head. I remember being shocked at the same time I heard the sound and knowing I was hit. I was very surprised by it and thought it must be happening to everyone under the shelter. I couldn't tell what was happening to the others though because it was like I had tunnel vision and everything on the edges was very fuzzy. I blacked out and the next thing I remember was trying to get up off the ground. I felt like if I didn't get up quick it would hit me again. I was desperate to get up but when I moved my arm to push up I only went sideways. I thought "Oh no, am I paralyzed?" I thought Ed was on the ground next to me but I found out later that was not so. As a matter of fact, where I remember being on the ground isn't at all where I actually was. I guess it messed with my perception.

Ed said he felt it enter right where his hind end was leaning against the metal. He was able to push me off of the wall but could not move off himself. He said he looked at his arm and it was numb and the pressure in his hand was incredible. He felt like his fingertips were going to blow off when he looked at me on the ground. He said I was on my hands and knees with my head dropped downward for almost a minute. I have no memory of this.

Then an incredible thing happened. His horse Jamie walked up to him and touched his hand with her nose and when she did that he was able to come off of the wall. He took a step forward then went to one knee. When he finally stood up he was able to pull me up. I remember being surprised that everything worked. Then Ed's horse went down in an unnatural way. She stretched her legs out in front of her and went down like a cat. We all rallied around her and made her get up but for one horrifying moment I thought we were going to lose her. I think she saved Ed from more serious harm by taking some of the current from him. 

Friends of ours that were there said later that they saw the lighting hit the roof and that the roof glowed red and sparks were raining down around us. Another separate bolt hit and killed a cow that was about fifteen feet outside of where we were. When I rode past her my heart broke for her. 

Ed has burn marks on his hind end that blistered slightly and a burn on his chest that looks like a cigarette burn. It seems to be healing from the inside out. I had a slight mark on my foot where I felt the bolt exit. Jamie the mare has an exit wound on her coronet band just above her hoof. She is completely fine. I had some depression immediately following for about two weeks. Otherwise we seem fine. 

We both thought we were going to die so we are extremely grateful to be here, life is so absolutely precious.