Edward Sklut was cooking dinner for his wife, Katharine, in their Alma Road kitchen Saturday evening when the thunderstorm rolled in. Between 7 and 8 PM dinner was forgotten as “all of a sudden,” as Mr. Sklut said, “there was a loud sonic boom and then everything went black.”
The New Seabury resident went outside and saw a black line stretched from the top of the house down to the bottom with shingles burnt and fallen off. In a bedroom, windows had been blown out and a door was lying on the bed four feet away from the closet where it originally hung.
“It looked like a bomb went off,” Mr. Sklut said.
The Skluts were the unlucky couple whose house was hit directly by a lightning bolt during Saturday’s storm.
They lost their cable, their stove, furnace, hot water, television and many of the electric sockets in the home. A neighbor has been letting them use an outdoor shower and even lent them their house for a weekend when they would be away.
A direct lightning strike is a rarity, at least in Mashpee.
Mashpee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief John F. Phelan said that in his more than 20 years at the department, he has never seen anything like it. Aside from the line up the outdoor wall, and the shattered windows, chunks of sheet rock had fallen off the walls inside the home.
Typically, when homeowners think that their house may have been struck by lightning, the lightning actually strikes a tree or the ground outside and then travels into the home through plumbing or electrical wire. For the Alma Road house however, Deputy Chief Phelan said that it was a rare direct hit.
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The Skluts called the department after the lightning strike when they smelled smoke. The smoke would eventually dissipate and no fire was found.
Deputy Chief Phelan also said that several other homes in the area were subject to the same lightning strike and had some electrical issues, although not to the same extent. The cable was blown out for many homes as well.
Mr. Sklut said that the family is okay. They had thought they lost a cat during the strike, but Mr. Sklut found him curled up into a ball under a bed after the strike.
But financially, they could be in rough shape if their insurance company does not come through. Both are retired and have been saving for a new car and other necessities, but financing the repairs on the house could set them back. Mr. Sklut said he is somewhat nervous about the insurance. Because they live near the ocean, they had to get special state insurance rather than a private company. Mr. Sklut also plans on setting up a “GoFundMe” page.
“It’s really a bummer,” Mr. Sklut said. “We’ve been pretty depressed.”
Lightning Strike Safety Tips
Fire Chief Thomas Rullo said homes are a safe place to be during a thunderstorm, but he did provide some tips for staying safe. It is best to avoid showers. Lighting can strike a tree or ground outside a home, connect with water pipes in the ground and then travel in. He said that in his time in Mashpee and in Florida, where he spent much of his career, he had never seen that happen but it is a possibility.
Also, in the rare instance of a lightning strike, residents should not hesitate to call the fire department, especially if they smell an electric odor or a smoke. “Have us come and check it out,” Chief Rulio said. “We’re not trying to scare people, but use caution.”
Chief Rulio said the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency also has a number of tips: if driving in a thunderstorm, it is best to pull over and not touch metal in the car. In a house, avoid using a phone with a cord except for emergencies (cellphones and cordless phones are fine); avoid contact with metal objects, and avoid bathing and activities using other plumbing like washing dishes or doing laundry. If outside, go indoors immediately.