California Man Almost Hit by Lightning in Dangerous Western Weather

Aug 14, 2012 11:49am

Lightning, heat and drought are proving to be the  perfect recipe for a fiery disaster in the western United States.

More than 60 wildfires are raging out of control across several western states putting firefighters in danger.

Oregon, Nevada and Utah are on fire, spreading across 20,000  acres with no end in sight.

More than 40 homes were destroyed in parts of Washington state east of Seattle.

A 20-year-old firefighter, Anne Veseth, was killed as she battled a fire in Idaho.

And one of the largest fires, now covering 6,000 acres, is north of San Francisco.  Five-hundred homes were evacuated, and tankers and helicopters are rushing to help.

In Joshua Tree, Calif., highways and trails have been  shut down since more than 300 acres have burned.

Part of problem is that temperatures have soared to record highs, up to 117 degrees in California. And it’s been very dry. Thunderstorms are producing what’s called “dry lightning,” sparking the fires.

William McNeill, from Acton, Calif., was outside Monday  recording the rainfall on his iPad for his wife who works underground and doesn’t get to see the weather often. All of a sudden there was a loud boom.

“I looked up to the sky where the dark cloud was, and the lightning bolt hit about 10 feet away from me and blinded me,” McNeill told ABC News.

The bolt shook his entire house, sounded like a shotgun, and was so bright he couldn’t see for a few seconds.

“It put a tear in my eye because I thought I was either hit or grazed. I could feel it was coming before it had hit. It was a weird tingling feeling, all the hair on my arms and legs stood up,” McNeill explained.

His baby was right inside the screen door as it happened. McNeill immediately bolted it to make sure the child was safe.

“The baby was right next to me in the house. I couldn’t  find him. I went diving for the door, grabbed the door, crawled into the house. I grabbed his feet. I couldn’t see anything,” he said.

Neither McNeill nor his baby was  injured.

” It was weird because when you open your eyes, all you could see was like a bright camera flash. Imagine that 100 times worse and it doesn’t go away,” McNeill said.  “If I had been standing outside the awning, I believe definitely I could have been hit.”

To see McNeill’s home video of the lightning strike in his backyard, click here.

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