Lightning strike injuring children was ‘bolt from the blue’

This picture shows a 'bolt from the blue,' where lightning strikes away from core of the storm.
This picture shows a 'bolt from the blue,' where lightning strikes away from core of the storm.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Three children struck by lightning in Bee Cave Tuesday afternoon were likely hit from an isolated lightning strike located well away from the parent thunderstorm. Sometimes called a “bolt from the blue,” these type strikes are especially dangerous because they can appear to come from a clear or partly cloudy sky. Strikes have been known to occur more than 25 miles from a thunderstorm.

The KXAN First Warning Weather lightning detection system indicated a strike at 4:40 p.m. near the intersection of Hamilton Pool road and State Highway 71—the location of the Field of Dreams sports fields where the children were struck. At that time, the nearest rain was three miles away, associated with a thunderstorm moving over Lake Austin toward Bee Cave.

Radar images show two lightning strikes near Bee Cave on Tuesday.
Radar images show two lightning strikes near Bee Cave on Tuesday.

There was a second lightning strike recorded one minute later, 1.4 miles southeast of the first strike. Those were among only five lightning strikes in the storm cell between 3:41 and 4:41 p.m. The other three were located inside the storm’s heavy rain core, between 5.5 miles and 6.5 miles away.

Ironically, the only strike before the bolt which injured the children took place four minutes earlier and six miles away—which means if thunder was heard at the sports field, it would have been 30 seconds after that strike—exactly the time frame in which the 30/30 lightning safety rule is based. That rule states: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

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