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Struck by Lightning

by Michael Tierney

The last salvo of a Fourth of July fireworks show!

The Independence Day fireworks went extra long in 2009. The nieghbors had put on a light show in the air above the cul-de-sac pavement. Then the city display over the nearby lake took it up another notch.

lighning tree0 But the biggest explosion came when a thunderstorm rolled in from the Southeast. I could hear it marching in, and decided to turn off everything electrical and call it a night.

LightningTree1 When the lightning bolt hit above where I was sleeping, the crack of thunder was so loud that I was already bouncing off the floor when the alarm system went off.

The next day, even after a gulleywasher of a heavy downpour I could still find tree bark scattered across my front lawn. The trail of bark led back to streaks of bare wood all over the pine tree out front.

LightningTree3 LightningTree4
LightningTree5 LightningTree6

Being a Sunday, I tried to check the internet to research trees struck by lightning. Couldn't find any reference for help.

So I thought I'd do a community service and make what I subsequently learned available to others wondering what to do when lightning strikes their trees.

My first question was: are lightning strikes always fatal to trees?

The answer to that is: almost always, yes.

LightningTree7 LightningTree8 The next question was: is this covered by insurance?

Fortunately the answer to this one is also: yes (for my policy). In fact, it's one of the few kinds of tree damage that most insurance companies do cover. Lightning damage and trees falling onto insured structures are also covered. But, if it's just wind or ice knocking down branches and tress, and they don't hit something, then you're on your own cleaning up the mess.

A few years back, the coverage used to be better. When another lightning strike knocked down an even larger tree in my back yard, insurace paid me something for the loss of my tree. No more. Now there's only the $500 limit for removal. They know that's not enough to pay for it all, so they waive the deductable.

Wish I could say that these were my only experiences with bad weather, trees, and insurance claims. They aren't.

storm street

A couple of years ago, a minor tornado had knocked a double tree off public land on top of my house. The storm hit the city pretty hard. Got home just in time to empty some of my library room before the ceiling collapsed under the weight of rain water.

The way the deal works with insurance: when a tree falls, it's not the problem of the person whose tree it was. It's the problem of the person it landed on.


Ever since, whenever I see the opening credits for the old time TV series, Daniel Boone, where he splits a tree with a throw of an ax, I'm no longer impressed.

He split a pine tree.

I've learned that pines split easy.


Since a whole community wasn't all calling in claims at the same time, this time the insurance claim process started out smoothly.

Timber2 Timber1 By the time the tree removal comany arrived, branches were already dying. Sap had been running out of cracks running along the scrorch marks.

The tree removal crew were surprised that the tree hadn't exploded. While it wasn't the most hazardous job they'd ever done, they were still glad that it wasn't a windy day.
Timber3 Timber4
Timber5 Timber6 Timber7 Timber8 Timber9 Timber10 Timber11 Once on the ground, more damage was showing than anyone realized.

Unfortunately, that statement didn't apply only to the trunk of the pine that had just been felled.

2nd strike tree 3rd strike tree Turns out that the lightning had also struck two other trees. Both were smaller. Another pine and a red tip.

There'd apparently been a lot of electricity flying around when the bolt struck. Heck, even my truck (shown earlier), parked on that side of the garage, had its battery fried.

That same storm had continued Northwest and knocked the power out at my North Little Rock store, Collector's Edition. When I jumped in the truck to answer the alarm call, I turned the key and got nothing. At the time I simply switched ponies and rode out with my Trans Am. But the next day, when I put a charger on the truck battery, the voltage meter wouldn't budge. It was fried.


Of course, when the number of damaged trees multiplied, my insurance company wanted to send an adjuster out. So... a couple of weeks later the tree company was back...

Timber18 Timber19 Timber20

And, sure enough, when the second pine hit the ground, it shattered exactly at one of the points where it'd been struck, showing that a tree hit by lightning is no longer safe.

It has to be removed.


To see what happens when pine trees are encased in ice and then smacked with a blizzard and high winds, check out further misadventures with inclement weather in White Christmas Apocalypse. This page could easily have been titled Snowmeggedon. May have been a good thing that the lightning strikes cleared out so many trees.
Snow Gazeebo

If you're curious about what happens when a falling tree crushes a moving car (the tree hit me, not the other way around), click here for the story of HAW056, the Cursed License Plate. You'll easily spot that section by more tree pictures.
HAW056 The Cursed License Plate