Violent lightning strike that zapped tree captured on film

By Mark LaFlamme, Sun Journal
Posted May 14, 2011, at 12:17 p.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — Rosaire Dumond wouldn’t lie to you. It was one mean bolt of lightning that zapped the big maple tree in his backyard last week. Fire seemed to shoot from the sky. It shook the earth, rattled windows and sent bark flying everywhere.

Not buying it? Well, then, behold the photographic evidence, an image shot by helicopter pilot Pat Giarrizzo from a quarter-mile away.

“There were a lot of strikes during that storm,” Giarrizzo said. “But that one was really close. It shook the glass.”

Giarrizzo was at work in an office on the fourth floor of Central Maine Medical Center when lightning cracked down at 117 Spring St.

Why was he watching — and photographing — the storm? As a pilot for LifeFlight, Giarrizzo is interested in Mother Nature’s mood, especially when her wrath is revealed in the form of electricity.

“We stay away from that stuff,” Giarrizzo said.

Rosaire Dumond didn’t have that option. It was his tree that was struck by lightning. It happened in his backyard, roughly 20 feet from the kitchen.

Like Giarrizzo, Dumond was watching through a window when the bolt cracked down on the tree. But unlike the pilot, Dumond was near enough to hear and feel it.

“There was a big ball of fire,” the 86-year-old said. “And then bark was flying all over the place.”

Dumond was calm enough, he said, “but my wife jumped this high.”

When it was safe, Dumond went outside to survey the damage to the roughly 100-year-old maple. There were scars and bare spots where bark was knocked free, but the tree otherwise looked healthy and strong.

No surprise to Dumond.

“It’s a big son-of-a-gun of a tree,” he said.

So, he could tell everyone he knew that he witnessed a lightning strike up close. But how to describe such a thing? It’s next to impossible.

That’s where Giarrizzo’s keen eye and fancy camera come in handy.

It’s a Sony, Giarrizzo said, brand-new. It wasn’t as though he stood there snapping photos and got lucky with the timing, he said. The camera is equipped to take several frames per second. All he had to do when the smoke cleared was go back and pluck a photo out of the lineup.

Giarrizzo didn’t learn the name of the man whose tree was struck until Thursday night. He plans to visit Dumond and his wife and deliver a print of the impressive photo.

Dumond will like that. He figures he can now sit in his backyard without concern. Why would he worry? The wisdom, after all, is that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.

“We love it out here,” Dumond said, at ease beneath the great tree. “It’s beautiful in the summertime.”

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http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/14/news/violent-lightning-strike-that-zapped-tree-captured-on-film/ printed on October 2, 2014