Grass Valley man zapped by lightning while driving

Grass Valley resident Steven Conrad was driving home from work, just like any typical Monday, when he saw a bright flash and heard a buzzing sound.

Conrad’s car had been struck by lightning as he drove under a tree.

“I heard a really unusual buzzing noise as I was driving down the road, and I saw a really bright flash,” he said. “Sparks started kind of arcing off the top of my car, I immediately looked behind me, and I could see embers falling down the tree.”

Conrad said he initially thought it was a power transformer, which seemed infeasible, he said, as the tree was 30 feet tall and the embers were falling from the top.

“I think I was directly under it, and that was what caused the sparks,” he said.

Conrad said the radio and clock in his car were unaffected, as well as his cell phone, which he promptly checked.

He got out of his 2002 Chevy Cavalier and found it was also unaffected.

“It was definitely surprising,” he said. “I’ve heard of cars getting hit before and nothing much happening, but I’ve never really looked into it, so when it happened, I didn’t know what to think. It happened in a flash.”

Conrad is a Nevada Union High School alumnus, who ran track and studied at University of California, Berkeley.

He is a trainer at Fit Culture Studio in Nevada City, which offers one-on-one and small- and large-group training.

According to factmonster.com, the chances of being struck by lightning are one in 600,000, and rubber shoes and tires provide no protection from lightning, but the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides protection if you are not touching the metal.

The thunder and lightning storms that hit parts of Nevada County Monday were a result of the remnants of a tropical storm that caused a low-pressure system off the coast and moisture in the area, said Holly Osborne, meteorologist for the Sacramento office of the National Weather Service.

The storm’s short duration is explained by a fairly narrow band yesterday that moved from Sacramento east to Nevada County and toward Quincy, Osborne said.

Grass Valley experienced 1.54 inches of rainfall from midnight Monday to Tuesday morning, according to Ali Clark, administrative assistant at Grass Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The upcoming temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-80s Wednesday and Thursday with a high of 90 degrees during the weekend, Osborne said.

“Most of the moisture has moved east out of our area now, so it shouldn’t be as muggy the next few days,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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The Union Updated Sep 4, 2013 12:38AM Published Sep 5, 2013 08:59AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.