Thunder Rolls: Six Shocking Lightning Stories

On Monday, three soccer players took shelter under a tree as storms rolled into Houston's Escondido Sports Center. Unfortunately, that's one of the worst places to be in the event of lightning, which tends to seek out the tallest object in the area. When lightning struck, fire and sparks engulfed the tree. Electricity shook the branches. Then the electrical discharge jumped out and killed two of the men, injuring the third.

With all the torrential weather in Houston recently, we've compiled a list of six cautionary tales to keep you on your guard. In the middle of an electrical storm, remember to stay away from plumbing and electrical outlets, because lightning often uses water pipes or wiring to ground itself. Also, if you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands up, lightning might be about to strike. In that case, drop to the ground and pray.

6. Lightning Kills Entire Soccer Team

In 1998, a soccer game in South Africa was tied 1-1 when lightning struck and killed the entire visiting team. The other side came out unscathed. Superstitious locals believed it was the work of dark magic.

5. Lightning Strikes Man's Penis (no photo available)

In 2007, lightning struck a biker taking a leak during a roadside stop. Because he was wearing rubber boots, the electric charge grounded itself by traveling through his penis and down the stream. He later told Metro that "thankfully, the doctors said that there would be no lasting effects, and my penis will function normally eventually." Three news outlets covering this story made the same joke: "Let's hope the old adage 'lightning never strikes twice' rings true."

4. iPod Wire Saves Girl from Lightning

A teenage girl was sitting in a field with her boyfriend when lightning struck. Luckily, the wire for her iPod headphones diverted the lightning away from her vital organs, though it still singed her clothes, hair and skin. Her doctor said she should recover without a scar to show for it.

3. Lightning Strikes Airplane

Because airplanes get struck by lightning about once per year, engineers carefully design them to shield passengers and vital components from the electric shock. That's how this plane escaped unharmed.

2. Man Struck By Lightning Seven Times

This commercial tells the story of Roy Sullivan, who got struck by lightning seven times in his life, earning him a Guinness World Record. But after all that, he killed himself at the age of 71 over unrequited love. Toward the end, the video takes a quick turn to promote environmentally friendly milk containers. It's a part of a questionable new genre of commercials that spend as little time as possible on the actual product they're advertising.

1. Ball Lightning

Some say this is a myth, but there are many reports spanning about 300 years of something called "ball lightning," a glowing, hissing sphere of electricity that floats in the air for several seconds before exploding and wreaking havoc. Over the years it's been described as "a dark unproportioned thing about the bigness of a football," "large ball of blue fire" and "the flames of hell." Others mistook it for a ghost. Scientists have come up with a number of theories about how ball lightning might form, but they have little data to work with due to the phenomenon's infrequency and unpredictability (or possible nonexistence).

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Mitchell Slapik
Contact: Mitchell Slapik