Deadly 'Bolts Of Blue' From Nowhere

lightning strike in Clovis, N.M. AP

It was a clear sunny day June 30 on the east coast when a young man playing football on the beach in New Jersey was struck by lightning - a bolt out of the blue - and killed.

It was an unusual, but not unheard of, act of nature.

Earlier in June, a similar bolt struck a couple walking on a beach in Florida.

“The sun was out. There were some clouds,” Lynne Allen told CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras. “I just remember a crashing thunder sound and instantaneously with the thunder my body went numb.”

Allen survived the strike, but her boyfriend Christopher Lee Anderson was killed.

Almost a thousand Americans are struck by a lightning bolt every year, of which about a hundred die.

Two years ago, Gary Rudd survived a lightning strike - also on a sunny afternoon.

“Surely if there would have been a storm or any kind of a threat I would have seen it and there just plain wasn't any,” Rudd said.

Rudd said he was digging a ditch when a bolt came out of nowhere and hit him as he was holding a pitchfork. Rudd suffered severe burns on his chest, legs and foot. His jeans were scorched.

“I thought that I was on fire. I just took off into the ditch,” Rudd said.

Lightning is the most powerful natural electric force on the planet, causing more deaths annually than hurricanes and tornadoes combined. It is rare, however, for lightning to hit someone on what appears to be sunny day.

“There is no such thing as a bolt out of the blue lightning is always connected to thunder cloud,” said Christoph Zimmermann, a lightning expert with Global Atmospherics, Inc.

Zimmermann, who monitors lightning strikes around the country, says a thunderstorm can produce bolts that can travel up to 10 miles. So even if there is no rain in the immediate area, there is still a danger of getting hit by lightning.

“When you see the first flash of lightning off into the distance or if you hear thunder you need to seek shelter,” Zimmermann advised.

Florida leads the nation in lightning strikes with more than 3,500 hits a day in lightning season, which runs from early June through August.

But seeking shelter inside is not always completely safe.

“Even if you are inside of a building you shouldn't be talking on the phone you shouldn't be washing your dishes anything that has conduit to the outside world,” Zimmermann said.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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