No one wants their home to be struck by lightning, and if it does one usually expects the house to catch on fire. For Lisa Sims on Clearview Circle, her home was nearly destroyed by lightning but not with fire.
On May 8, a thunderstorm hit Columbia somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. with an ear-splitting crack being heard through town.
Sims was sitting in her bedroom reading.
“It sounded like potato chips crinkling, and the loudest bang I have ever heard. It was so loud.” she said. She actually is dealing with some hearing loss due to the crack of thunder.
Sims walked out of her room in total shock, not knowing exactly what happened. She headed toward the kitchen and then dialed 911 because she saw smoke. At first she didn’t step outside because she was too stunned. Witnesses said the front of the house could not even been seen due to the black smoke that covered it.
One of her dogs, a rescue from the Pic-N-Sav parking lot, was standing on the dining room table frightened and confused when it happened.
By the time Sims walked outside, members of the Columbia fire department, police department, friends and neighbors were on the scene.
“One of the things I love about small communities, how everyone reaches out,” she said.
Once she walked back inside the house with the emergency personnel, she was amazed at what she saw. The tops of the nails in the sheetrock could be seen from where the force of the blast pushed them out. All of the electrical outlets were fried, and in some places the wires were now exposed, having busted through the walls. Electrical boxes had melted, and there was a large hole in the roof from where the lightning struck. In one room sparks were flying out of the outlets. Burn spots appeared in several places on the walls.
Her dining room had portraits of all sizes on the wall, and the blast knocked all the pictures down. She said it was like walking on a glass floor from all the broken frames.
“I had no idea lightning could do this type of damage,” she said.
It has been described as a ball or globe lightning that struck her home, she said. A ball lightning is a rare aerial phenomenon that can happen during a thunderstorm.
She said five houses in the neighborhood also suffered damage from the strike with different appliances being affected. She knows one lost a stove and microwave and another lost his hot water heater.
She was advised that someone might need to stay in the house that night to make sure the house did not catch on fire because of the damaged wires in the attic. She stayed awake all night, and the next day she moved out.
Vernon Watts with Watts Electric told Sims after surveying the damage he had never seen anything like it.
Some of the workers felt like the house needed to be torn down and rebuilt, but with the structure and brick being in good shape she didn’t want to have to do that.
“I love my house. I just want it to be safe,” Sims said.
The house, though structurally sound, is having to be gutted because the wires were melted and in very bad shape. Work to repair the home began this week and is expected to take three months. The kitchen is still in intact. However, they are tearing down the walls on the other side to replace the wires. The bathroom at the opposite end of the house is questionable because of getting to the walls to check on the wires.
“It just amazed me how a whole group of people came to check on me,” Sims said.
She said if she had to give any advice on how to deal with lightning strikes, she said she would tell people to get out of the house right away because you never know if it will start a fire. She said she was too shocked to really react at first but definitely believes it is the smartest move to do.