How to know if you’re about to be struck by lightning: Amazing picture of brothers with hair on end minutes before they were hit
PUBLISHED: 22:12 EST, 30 July 2013 | UPDATED: 03:48 EST, 31 July 2
This frightening picture of two brothers with their hair on end was snapped just minutes before they were struck by lightning at Moro Rock, California, leaving the younger boy with third-degree burns and another man dead.
Electrical charges in the atmosphere just before a strike can lift hair into the air, providing nature’s last warning of a bolt from the blue.
These boys, 18 and 12, didn’t know that, and the image has spread rapidly across the web this month.
The story behind the classic 1975 picture has come to light on the blog of Michael McQuilken, the teenager on the right who had no idea that they were in terrible danger.
Shocking times: Grinning Michael McQuilken (right) and his little brother Sean (left) had no idea that this hair-raising effect meant that they were in serious danger of a lightning strike
As reported by NBC, John Jensenius, NOAA’s lightning safety specialist, has publicized McQuilken’s account of that fateful day on August 20, 1975.
McQuilken, now 56, remembered that he hiked to the top of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park with his brothers Sean and Jeff, sister Mary, 15, and her friend Margie.
At the summit the group noticed the weather had worsened and their hair had started standing on end, something they all found greatly amusing.
Mary, 15, shot some snaps of the phenomenon with a Kodak Instamatic camera, not knowing they would become famous.
McQuilken wrote on his blog that when he raised his right arm in the air ‘the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it.’
Little did they know that these signs of electricity in the air should have been warnings to seek immediate shelter.
The group only left the summit when the temperature dropped and it began to hail. They didn’t get far before disaster struck.
Hilarious: Sister Mary also had a snap taken. The group should have been seeking shelter instead
McQuilken, who is now a drummer and software designer, described the lightning hit as being engulfed ‘in the brightest light I have ever seen,’ similar in intensity to an arc welding light.
He then remembers time slowing down, a sensation of weightlessness, and a deafening explosion.
When he came round on the ground he realized his brother Sean had been struck by the lightning.
McQuilken explained: ‘Sean was collapsed and huddled on his knees. Smoke was pouring from his back. I rushed over to him and checked his pulse and breathing.
‘He was still alive. I put out the embers on his back and elbows and carried him down the path towards the parking lot, with the rest of the group following.’
Sean suffered third-degree burns on his back and elbows but was fortunate as he hadn’t been completely grounded when the lightning struck.
Scary: The group were hiking to the top of Moro Rock, in Sequoia National Park, California, when the incident happened
While Sean was lucky, the group then encountered a couple where a woman was desperately giving emergency aid to her husband, who had a ‘small burn mark near his heart.’
Tragically, this man, Lawrence Brady, didn’t survive the strike.
Another man, nearer the top of the rock, was also hit. He lived but the camera he was trying to document the storm with was blown to pieces.
According to McQuilken this man’s ‘clothing had disintegrated – leaving only the seams of his jacket and pants.’
McQuilken continued: ‘All of the hair on his body was completely burned off, and from what I have been told, it had never grown back.
‘He was unconscious at the time, and did not recover consciousness for about 6 months.’
Killer: Lightning can be awe-inspiring but also fatal – if you don’t pay attention
McQuilken jokes that neither he nor his brother received any superpowers from the lightning strike, other than a greater respect for the elements and no desire to climb any peaks if there is any chance of a thunderstorm.
Lightning can be beautiful, awe-inspiring, and fatal. Between 1982 and 2011 an average of 54 Americans died a year as a result of lightning strikes.
The numbers have been coming down in the last few years, many thanks to government education and safety work. In 2011 there were only 26 lightning deaths.
As this story proves and the NOAA strictly advise, if your hair starts standing on end on the top of hill seek shelter immediately – you are in danger of a possibly fatal bolt from above.