In electrical storms, being indoors doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods

Posted at 8:00 AM, Jul 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-17 23:00:34-04
By Zaina Adamu

(CNN) — Weather experts agree: When lightning strikes, it’s best to go indoors.

But that advice didn’t work for two women in the same Louisiana city who were hurt in lightning incidents about three weeks apart — one in a grocery store and another in her home.

On Monday, 33-year-old Lakeisha Brooks and her two children took shelter from a storm at a grocery store in Houma, Louisiana.

Brooks said she was driving when the storm got severe so she decided to stop off and get some shopping done until it passed. While checking out her items she heard the thunder getting louder above her, when suddenly she felt a jolt of pain ricochet through her body.

She realized it was lightning when she saw flashes, she said.

“I just felt this pain go right through me,” Brooks said. “It happened in a blink of an eye.”

The lightning strike caused her right shoe to fly off, leaving a black imprint on her foot where the straps had been. The tile beneath her shattered, leaving blisters on her leg and feet.

The store’s assistant manager, Gene Moore, saw the incident. He said the current may have come through the store’s fire sprinkler system.

“The lightning knocked off the sprinkler system on the roof,” said Moore. “The crackle was so loud. She was stunned.”

Houma Police Chief Todd Duplantis says he has never heard of anything like this happening before.

“I’ve been with the police department for 28 years. I’ve never responded to a victim struck by lightning (indoors). I’ve heard of it on the outside, people walking outside, but I’ve never heard of anyone being struck by lightning while grocery shopping,” he told CNN affiliate WWL.

It wasn’t a first in Houma, a city of 34,000 about 50 miles southwest of New Orleans.

About three weeks earlier, some two miles from the store where Brooks was hurt, another lightning strike hit Mona Billiot while she was cooking dinner in her kitchen.

“I tried to dodge it,” said Billiot. “I was dazed, confused. I felt hot. My heart raced.”

In 2012, lightning strikes caused 28 deaths and 139 injuries in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta said strikes are becoming increasingly more common.

“One in 3,000 people has a chance of being hit by lightning (in a lifetime). Thankfully, very few people die, but it happens a lot more than people realize,” he said.

Doctors ran tests on both Brooks and Billiot and say they will be OK.

“I’m just getting to the realization that this happened,” Brooks said. “It’s taken a toll on me. Each day is a new feeling.”

Billiot credits God for her survival and said that, despite the pain, she could not help but appreciate lightning’s beauty.

“It’s really pretty — the middle of a lightning bolt,” she said. “It’s a shimmery, bright blue — so bright it blinds you.”

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