Family still rebuilding after lightning strikes garage

Local News

This week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week where the National Weather Service amps up education about lightning and tips to stay safe during summer thunderstorms.

One Botetourt family had a close brush with lightning just a few weeks ago.

May 21st started as a typical day for Fincastle resident Bill Austin. He had just finished working in his shop for the day, and decided to relax on his front porch and watch a storm roll in.

“Yeah I used to love a good lightning storm from the front porch,” Austin said.

But that changed by the evening of the 21st when lightning struck just feet away from him.

“It sounded like a bomb.It wasn’t just the crack and boom. It was simultaneous. The light flashed and the best I can describe it, it had a metallic ting to it. Almost like you knew it had arched to something,” he said.

And it did. An investigator told Bill lightning struck 10 feet away from his detached garage and traveled through this piece of copper pipe.

“Not much left of it,” he said showing the pipe.

The lightning than moved into a utility panel and caused a fire.

Once Bill saw the smoke he came into his garage where he found flames inside his utility closet. That’s where he used three fire extinguishers to try to get it under control.

“And by the time I got back there were flames coming out of the soffit,” he said.

Bill says it only took 15 minutes for the fire department to get there, but his garage, full of memories, is a complete loss.

“There were 7 guitars, 5 amplifiers, all of my rock and roll memorabilia, over a thousand vinyl albums that were played on a regular basis,” he said.

But he’s grateful the lightning didn’t hit closer. Coming full circle, he realizes how lucky he and his wife are to be alive knowing the lightning could’ve struck the very patio they were sitting under.

“But now I’ll watch a good lightning storm from a distance, and then I’ll go inside. It’s definitely changed,” he said.

Bill says he plans to rebuild his garage in the coming months.

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