Tag Archives: fire department

Heroes For When Lightning Strikes

Know the warning signs

Know the warning signs

Sometimes I think this world has gone completely mad. You can’t watch TV without seeing horrible atrocities committed by people against other humans. But then in the same newscast there will often be stories about people coming together and doing some wonderful and even sacrificial things to help others, which in turn, proves that this world isn’t all bad and there are heroes everywhere.

It’s similar to what happens when a personal disaster, one that affects only you and your immediate loved ones. In this case I’m not talking about man against man, but nature against human. That’s when you quickly learn who your heroes are.

I thought I was going to die!

I thought I was going to die! It was Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 7:17 am

I heard the rumbles of thunder while I was still in the shower and I hurried to finish, worried that the power might go out before I removed all the shampoo from my hair.  (We live in the country and have to depend on electricity to pump water into the house, no power, no water.) I managed to finish showering and drying my hair before it happened.

The whole place shook and the noise was sharp and deafening and I could smell something burning almost immediately. I had no idea what the lightning struck, but I thought it was the house. I put on a bathrobe, picked up my little dog, Annie, who was as terrified as me and looked out the front door. I could see my car beside the house and from the doorway, it looked like the car’s passenger side was on fire. My heart plummeted a my knees almost buckled.

I knew I had to do something, even if it was to just get out of the house, because if my car was burning, then it would explode and the house would go too. Shaking so bad I could hardly walk, wearing only a bathrobe and no shoes, carrying Annie and my cell phone, I ventured outside, feeling guilty because I was leaving my four cats in the house. 

The tree was split from the ground to almost the top!

The tree was split from the ground to almost the top!

It was apparent right away that lightning had struck the large cottonwood tree on the other side of our driveway. The tree was badly split and still smoldering  in spite of the rain. I made my way behind the car and that’s when I saw the flames coming from the driveway. The ground was on fire. The only source it could be coming from was the propane line that ran from the tank,  in front of the tree and into the house.

My first thought was to move my car away from the fire and I started to go back inside to get my keys. I realized there wasn’t time…I had to shut the propane tank off now.

Only one problem, I had no idea how to do it. My husband always did that sort of thing, but I’ve seen enough explosions on TV to know that if I didn’t, it would probably explode either the furnace or the tank or maybe both and I wouldn’t be able to outrun it. Besides, I would be sentencing the four cats inside to a sure death. I had to do something, even if it was wrong.

I opened the lid on the top of the tank and chose the knob that looked like a shut off valve and twisted. The flame made a sucking noise and went out. I held my breath for a few seconds, praying it hadn’t sucked the flame inside the tank or sent it into the furnace. When nothing happened, this gave me hope that I had done the right thing.

I went inside the house and I could still smell something hot. The smell was stronger now. I had to call 911 in case there was a fire inside the walls.

But there was another problem.

In my own defense, I was home alone, my husband had already left for for his job. I was shaking so badly I could hardly stand and my mind would not focus. I still had enough wits about me to know in an emergency seconds count, so I grabbed my cell phone again, but…

I have to explain that I had just gotten a new smart phone about a month or so before. It was the first of it’s type I had ever owned and I had been slowly learning how to use it.

Well, and I know this is going to make it sound like I’m really just nuts, but I couldn’t remember how to make an outgoing call. I’d only done it once before. Everyone I call are in my contacts and I did remember how to get to them, so I pushed contacts, then favorites and hit the first one at the top.

Again, in my own defense, seconds count in an emergency. I still wasn’t sure the house wasn’t on fire because the smell of something burning had grown stronger. I had read of peoples houses smoldering inside the walls before igniting. I couldn’t take the time to explain what was wrong. So when my daughter, who lives forty-five minutes away, answered the phone, I said, “Jamie, call 911 for me”, and I hung up.

I then called my husband, Pat, he’s programmed too and I told him what had happened and that I had called Jamie to call 911.  He works more than 50 miles away and I was worried he’d drive too fast coming home, but he had to know and I needed him at home.

By now I had calmed enough to remember how to use my cell and I called the power company and they said they would be right out.

Because I didn’t tell Jamie why I needed her to call 911, they sent a deputy sheriff who showed up about ten minutes later. As soon as I saw him, I felt better, I was no longer alone, but then I had to confess why I didn’t make the call myself. He was very nice and understanding. He asked me if I wanted him to look around or he said he could send the fire department. I told him about the fire in the driveway and that I had already put the fire out and he laughed. I really wasn’t trying to be funny, but I do see the irony in it now.

It wasn’t long after the deputy arrived that our long time neighbors and friends (they are both retired) drove in. I hadn’t even thought about calling them, but Pat had. The deputy was just about ready to leave by then and that’s when, Jamie and her husband David arrived and of course Jamie chewed me out about how I called her and then hung up. According to her husband, she was almost in as bad a shape as her mother.

Our son-in-law, David brought us a generator to use until we could get the power back on. It worked great.

We had to replace the breaker box inside the house and many of the outlets, which meant we needed an electrification to replace the box. We contacted several, but they were all to busy and then our son-in-law David said he knew someone and he called him. The guy couldn’t come that day, but promised he would be there the next day and he was. By the end of Thursday, one day after the lightning strike, we had electricity again.

We needed to have the furnace checked out and because of the circumstances of a lightning strike, the guy made a special effort to come out right away. The temps were only in the forties during the day.

He had bad new for us. The furnace was completely ruined. He told us if we wanted to get a second opinion, he didn’t mind and when we declined, he said he could be there the next day with a new one.

Our New Furnace

Our New Furnace

How often do contractors actually show up when they say they’re going to? He was a man of his word! He brought everything needed for the repairs. He even brought a trencher, something he doesn’t normally do, to put in the new propane gas line and regulator to the house. By the end of that day, Thursday, only one day after the strike, we had a new working furnace.

The telephone box outside on the opposite end of the house from the lightning strike.

The telephone box outside on the opposite end of the house from the lightning strike. Pieces of it were found in the middle of the yard.

The phone lines throughout most of the house were also melted, which explains what I had smelled burning. The main line from the basement was melted into the carpet in the living room.

The phone company sent someone that day and the guy went out of his way to fix what he could, even doing a few replacements he wasn’t supposed to do, but by the time he left, we again had a land line that worked, only one day after the lightning strike.

The phone line that was melted to the carpet.

The phone line that was melted to the carpet.

In the basement, besides the furnace, the lightning split the water pipes and Pat replaced the pipes Thursday morning.

Our TV in the living room and the DirecTV receiver, were ruined. The satellite on the roof was fine. We had just gotten a new box about a month before, because our old one had quit working. When I called, I explained to the girl what had happened to the new one and she said we were covered under an act of nature clause, which meant it was replaced for free. We didn’t even have to pay the technician that came and installed it on Friday, two days after the lightning strike.

The lightning also destroyed my computer in my office. I’m posting this from my work computer. The good news…my files were backed up.

The cottonwood tree after the lightning strike, was split almost to the top. It creaked and twisted in the wind. It was another disaster waiting for a strong wind to make it happen. The thing had to come down and soon.

Pat, two of his brothers and a brother-in-law spent the weekend taking it down. Not an easy task with a tree that size, while it loomed over the top of our house, but they managed it.

The offending tree is now gone.

The offending tree is now gone.

It has been almost a month since that day and we are almost completely back to normal. Although I will never hear another rumble of thunder and not think about that day and what might have happened if I had still been in the shower when it struck, I am happy to be alive today.

Someone was watching over me that morning and I feel blessed that so many people went out of their way to help us, going above and beyond of what they had to do. They didn’t risk their lives doing it, but they saved ours and for that they are my heroes.

What kind of personal disasters have you faced? Were there heroes who came to your rescue? Tell me about it.

My Young Adult debut novel is now on Amazon: Amazon.com: Donna Jean McDunn Nightmares: Kindle Store

MuseItUp Publishing’s website Nightmares