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The Villages
Thursday, August 11, 2022

Firefighters declare ‘miracle’ after Villager escapes injury in lightning strike

A Village of Monarch Grove man said firefighters told him it was a miracle that he and his home survived a lightning strike.

Owen Steele was at home at 12:45 p.m. June 14 when his home took a direct hit.

“It cooked my gas line,” said Steele, who bought the home on Sarakinis Path in 2019.

The lightning strike left a hole in the roof of his garage about the size of a bowling ball. Steele’s 28-year-old son, a U.S. Marine who has served in hotspots around the globe and was staying with his father on the day of the strike, couldn’t believe the sound.

The lightning strike left a hole the size of a bowling ball in his garage roof
The lightning strike left a hole the size of a bowling ball in his garage roof.
Firefighters examine the damage to Owen Steeles garage
Firefighters examine the damage to Owen Steele’s garage.

 

“He’s said he’s never heard anything like that,” Steele said.

The Villages Public Safety Department arrived on the scene to secure the home and survey the damage.

“They said it was nothing short of a miracle the whole house didn’t blow,” said Steele, who has been a longtime renter in The Villages and whose parents moved here many years ago.

The Village Public Safety Depart was at Owen Steeles home after the lightning strike
The Village Public Safety Department was at Owen Steele’s home after the lightning strike.

After the firefighters cleared the scene, Steele began an inventory of the damage and started to try to make sense of what had happened.

The electrical wiring and tankless water heater were among the long list of damages.

“The gas meter itself outside had to be removed and replaced that day. It was fried from the lightning traveling through it. Obviously, the heat alone melted the tracer wire on the pipe where it meets the ground,” Steele said.

Heat melted the tracer wire that connects to the gas line
Heat melted the tracer wire that connects to the gas line.

He obtained a report that showed there had been 22 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within one mile of his front door. The most powerful of the strikes hit his home.

“There were seven simultaneous strikes at 12:44:55 pm totaling more than 300,000 amps peak current that possibly caused the damage,” said Frank Criste of LightningProtectionTheVillages.com, who assisted Steele in analyzing the data.

Up to 30 of Steele’s neighbors’ homes also sustained damage. Many have had to replace cable boxes, modems and garage door openers.

In the week since the lightning strike, Steele has vigorously absorbed everything he could learn about lightning. He said he would like to save his fellow residents a similar fate.

“The only thing I want to convey personally is that had I known the reasonably priced safety measures that I could’ve taken before this incident, I wouldn’t have hesitated,” Steele said.

He said he could have had a lightning protection system installed for about $1,800.

His neighbor across the street had a full lightning rod system installed the day after the lightning strike.

Learn more about lightning protection systems at this link

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