Local News

Man Dies of Weekend Lightning Strike

Posted July 23, 1999

— A 30-year-old man struck by lightning over the weekend has died. Patrick Murphy had been pulling his boat up to the dock at the Upper Barton's Creek boat landing when he was struck Saturday.

Murphy had spent the day boating with his girlfriend and family. Hearing thunder far in the distance and with the sun turning to ominous clouds, he and his companions headed for shore. Despite their caution, he was hit by a lightning bolt.

An average of 400 people are injured or killed by lightning each year. At least three area residents have been struck in the last month, including Murphy and a teen-ager on Saturday.

A rescue squad member recounted what a witness said about the Murphy instance.

"There were people two or three feet away from (Murphy) when he fell over," John Chamberlain of Six Forks Fire Rescue quoted the witness. "(The witness) said he looked over where he thought the noise came from, and the gentlemen who was struck fell backwards."

Murphy took a direct hit.

"With lightning, the amount of volts that goes through the body is fairly unforgiving on the heart," Chamberlain said.

The power of a lightning bolt is incredible.

"It's actually five times hotter than the sun," according to WRAL WeatherCenter meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "To me that is really hard to imagine how hot that would be, but when you look at it in volts, it is 110 million to one billion volts."

Lightning can fool people. A person does not have to be right under a storm to be struck. Gardner says most people get hit when they go outside after the storm. They think it is all over.

"A lightning bolt can come out of a storm 10 miles away," Gardner said. "So if you can hear thunder at all, or even see any lightning, you are going to be much better off to be inside than outside."

Gardner says a good rule of thumb when it comes to lightning safety is not to be the tallest thing around and don't stay near any isolated tall objects.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Gonski toldThe News & Observerthat metal car keys or the coins in one's pocket can attract lightning. Metal, like water, attracts electricity.

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