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Spearfish woman recalls lightning strike

July 20, 2019

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — A Spearfish woman wants area residents to know the dangers of watching a thunderstorm outside.

Stephanie Barry and her sister ventured out the High Plains Western Heritage Center June 25 to watch a severe thunderstorm that was rolling north of Spearfish.

“I don’t chase (storms) around, but I’ve taken pictures and videos of lightning ever since I was a kid,” Barry said.

The two joined two other vehicles in the parking lot and got out of their car to video the storm around 8:45 p.m.

“It was really far away when we got up there,” Barry said.

But then the lightning got closer. Her video tells the tale.

The video she provided to the Black Hills Pioneer was 30 seconds of the five-minute clip, trimmed for email purposes.

Barry was facing north, shooting in the last minutes of daylight with her cell phone. Lightning, both ground strikes and cloud-based, can be seen in rapid succession. Then a bright light followed almost immediately after by a loud clap of thunder. Barry screams. The phone, knocked out of her hand, falls to the ground. The screen goes black.

Barry had been knocked off her feet by the bolt that struck 10-15 feet away.

“I didn’t get knocked unconscious,” she said. “All I remember is a really big, scary boom and a flash of light. It took me off my feet and knocked the phone out of my hand. The doctor said that is because of how powerful the electricity was.”

Barry’s sister was not injured by the indirect strike, although she did feel the electricity slightly in one foot.

“It hit the ground and I was the closest object. I got electrocuted and she didn’t,” Barry said.

The only visible injury was to the top of her left big toe that had a pinpoint sized hole — where the electricity came out, she assumes.

Barry said she was in shock and felt an enormous amount of adrenalin and her nerves “felt funny.” After that adrenalin wore off, she said her muscles all over were sore.

Barry said she went to urgent care the next day where she underwent an EKG, blood work, and a neurological exam.

“It was definitely a once in a lifetime thing — hopefully,” she said.

Although she still loves thunderstorms, “It’s really scary now,” she said. She has not ventured outside of her home in a storm since the strike.

“Maybe after a while, definitely not right now,” she said.

Barry is not the only person to be struck by lightning. According to the National Weather Service, over the last 30 years, from 1989 to 2018, the U.S. has averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of injury.

The odds a person, who lives to be 80 years old, is struck in their lifetime is 1 in 15,300.

Spearfish saw tragedy on July 12, 2015, when two Black Hills State University students were struck by lightning.

Gage McSpadden and Evan Strand were at the Spearfish Canyon Disc Golf Course located off Winterville Drive in Spearfish. McSpadden was struck directly and Strand indirectly. Both were flown to Denver, Colorado, for treatment. McSpadden died two days later.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com

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