Lightning Strikes Home in Franklin County

FRANKLIN COUNTY – A home in the Riverbend subdivision of Franklin County was struck by lightning Thursday night as a heavy storm grew into a highly-electrical cluster of storms, ruining many July 4 firework and cookout plans.

John Schenk says his home was hit directly but only suffered minor electrical damage. However, the surge caused an electrical fire at his neighbor’s home, seen in the video below.

Firefighters responded to the Riverbend subdivision Thursday night after a lightning strike caused an electrical fire. Video: John Schenk

“I have never seen a storm as intense as that one was,” Schenk said. “Lightning was intense and continuous… it [the storm] didn’t move for over thirty minutes.”

Indeed, lightning is intense.

Just one bolt can heat the air around it to over 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun.

The NWS radar image with lightning detection added via RadarScope Pro at 8:31 p.m. showed the tremendous amount of lightning density in the storm, which also covered a large area.

A single lightning strike also carries one-billion (with a “B”), or 1,000,000,000 volts of electricity with it.

Summer storms can be a hidden danger to many because lightning along doesn’t meet the National Weather Service criteria for issuing warnings. It’s a tough call, as a forecaster will tell you; where would you draw the line? At 100 strikes? 200 strikes? The fact is it only takes one strike to cause damage and that would mean issuing a warning for every single thunderstorm, as lightning is what makes an ordinary shower a storm in the first place.

Officially, a storm must have 1″ hail or larger and/or 58 mph wind gusts and/or a tornado to be considered “severe”. The Franklin County storm, while not severe by definition, certainly caught everyone’s attention, though.

The National Weather Service does issue Special Weather Statements for sub-severe storms, though. Many apps and media partners, including Cable 12 relay the alerts when necessary. Several statements were issued as the storm developed Thursday.

The other problem with summer storms is they are not connected to any single weather disturbance — we don’t track these things for days in advance like we do in the Winter and Spring. Instead, these summer storms are a by-product of heat and humidity that just sits over the same area day after day. Any tiny, small-scale boundary can trigger them, and forecasting them with any certainty in this pattern is impossible. That’s why you’ll hear “partly sunny with a 30-percent chance of evening showers and storms today”. We know there will be storms in some areas, but forecasters can’t get exact until the actual storm starts to show up on radar.

More storms are in the forecast into the weekend as well. Whether you get a warning or not, remember: meteorologists tell you to stay away from windows and seek shelter for a reason.

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