Bay Area Lightning Strikes Plane, Explodes Trees, Hits Woman

What remains of a Berkeley redwood after being struck by lightning Monday. (Photo: Dan Brekke/KQED)
What remains of a Berkeley redwood after being struck by lightning Monday. (Photo: Dan Brekke/KQED)

 

The Bay Area got lit up yesterday: we’re talking lightning strikes. An Alaska Airlines flight operated by Horizon was struck at Oakland International Airport. In Sausalito, a redwood tree was struck and shattered windows at two homes.

“It sounded like a bomb went off,” Ellie Wilder, a neighbor, said.

Our partner Berkeleyside reports on local lightning damage:

A giant redwood tree in North Berkeley was struck by lightning at around 1:15 p.m. today and “exploded,” sending chunks of wood flying in all directions, according to authorities.

Several windows and skylights in nearby homes were broken out, but there were no reported injuries, according to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb, who estimated the redwood, which is at the intersection of Holly Street and Buena Avenue, had been reduced in size from 70 ft to about 25 ft….

Kat McGowan, who was in the area, said the tree “exploded” and shards of wood flew everywhere. She said the house next to the tree seemed to be “mostly OK” “It was scary/thrilling. Good thing everybody seems to be OK,” she posted on Twitter.

KQED News Fix editor and Berkeley resident Dan Brekke posted photos of the aftermath in a set he calls “End of a Berkeley Redwood.”

Dan describes the lightning as “a brilliant streak … accompanied by a simultaneous ear-splitting crash.” As for what remains:

(A) 25-foot-high snag that comes to a jagged point reaching up over the adjacent homes and foliage. Neighbors, gawkers and curiosity seekers have all been out picking up bits of the blown-up tree (the smithereens to which the redwood was blown); I saw a woman pull up, tour the site, and walk away with what looked like a 50-pound remnant. The red-tagged home and the remains of the tree have served as a set since last night for every Bay Area TV news show — until 11 p.m. last night and then again this morning before dawn.

And in South Berkeley, a woman reported actually being struck by a bolt. From Berkeleyside:

Emily Davis was struck by lightning in Berkeley on Monday while crossing the road during a dramatic storm. Although she was shaken and suffered some after-effects, Davis was not seriously injured. However, the experience, she said, has left her feeling lucky to be alive.

Davis, 31, was standing on the median at the intersection of Adeline and Stuart streets at around 1 p.m. when she was struck. She was heading to Berkeley Bowl to buy lunch for her boyfriend, who works at the nearby Berkeley Honda.

She heard a first clap of thunder which, she said, sounded like a bomb exploding.

The first she knew of being struck was when she felt a “terrible” metallic taste in her mouth.

“Then I saw an orb of light travel down the umbrella handle I was holding in my right hand,” Davis said.

“Thankfully I was holding the plastic end of the umbrella, or else I would’ve been in big trouble,” she told Berkeleyside.

Davis’ heart began beating very fast. “I think out of both the literal and physical shock,” she said. And her left arm — not the one she was using to hold the umbrella — started shaking uncontrollably.

The coffee she was holding in her left hand was thrown to the ground.

KCBS has other accounts in this video. The station reports the tree stood 80 feet.

Today, we got hail

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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