Unsettled weather cited in lightning strikes

- A day of unsettled weather in Northern California brought rain, wind and lightning strikes to the East Bay Thursday with several people being treated for cloud-to-ground lightning.

An Oakley woman and at least three school-aged kids were taken to an area hospital for treatment for lightning.

A PG&E substation near the Antioch Bridge was struck, igniting a small grass fire and prompting daylong repairs at the facility.

The severe weather began shortly after 9 a.m. when there were reports of at least two lightning strikes in Oakley in east Contra Costa County.

Jim Douglas, who along with his sister and nephew, live on O'Hara Court says his house took a direct strike.

"We heard a loud, really loud explosion.  It jarred us around inside. To me it felt like a propane tank blew," Douglas said.

The lightning did substantial damage, destroying his flagpole, damaging the porch and woodwork around it. His foundation is cracked, his ceiling fan fell from the ceiling of one room and his entire electrical system appears to have been severely damaged.

More important, Douglas says his sister, who was working atop her mobile home, right next door, was hit by lightning which sent her to the hospital. "She got zapped in the near or in the thigh here, knocked her off the trailer. She's in the hospital.  Now, they're getting her stable.  They say something about it could cause liver damage," says Douglas.

Within seconds of that, just up the road at O'Hara Elementary School, maintenance man Doug Horton was working in back. "I saw a giant flash of light, like somebody took a Polaroid, and right after, instantly after that it was like a huge explosion like somebody just fired a gun next to my head, I mean it was loud nd it literally almost shook me out of the truck," says Mr. Horton.

The school, which had its fire alarms go off and had problems with phone communications, called the Fire Department, and immediately went into emergency mode; something it practices all the time. It paid off today.

"Actually, we had the real weather to go along with it.  It wasn't just practice.  And, to be honest with you, the staff was just great; great with the kids," Ann Allen, Assistant Superintendent.

Though there was no apparent damage to the school, three children were shaken up and evaluated by paramedics who pronounced them well.

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