May 28, 2014 at 9:33 AM ET
Scott Sheppard has a sore arm and one heck of a story.
Lightning struck the storm spotter while he was chasing a thunderstorm in South Dakota. Heavy hail had prompted Sheppard and a friend to pull over their vehicle while driving Tuesday evening. Sheppard then stuck his left arm out the driver’s side window to record the storm with his smartphone.
“Not a bright thing to do obviously,” he said Wednesday morning, still amazed by what happened next.
Lightning hit his arm, his vehicle and another car passing by.
The phone flew out of his hand, but continued to record, capturing a plume of dust and debris kicked up from the asphalt struck by the lightning.
“It blew a number of holes into the ground,” he said.
Sheppard, 35, said he doesn’t think he was hit directly.
“If the full current went through my arm, there would be an entrance and exit wound,” he said. “I got shocked pretty hard, but it was not the whole bolt of lighting hitting me.”
Sheppard recalled when, as a child, he accidentally stuck this thumb in a light socket.
“It was more intense than that, but it happened fast,” he said.
Both his car and the passing vehicle were disabled by the lightning strike and had to be towed away. “They were fried completely,” said Sheppard, who did not seek medical attention.
“I figured if something was wrong, I would have been killed or really hurt on the spot. I’m OK. I’m fine,” he said.
The odds of being struck by lightning within a lifetime is one in 10,000, according to the National Weather Service. There have been four lightning fatalities in 2014, NWS reports.
Sheppard, who lives in New Jersey, is currently in the Northern Plains helping to spot storms for the National Weather Service. He said he’s still trying to process what happened to him.
“It’s a bit much to take in. I don’t know if I’ve fully digested it enough to give you a reaction or something," he said. "My friend and I, we’re just both very grateful it wasn’t worse.”
The pair were back on the road Wednesday, heading toward Montana and North Dakota to chase more storms, but with a little more caution than usual. If anything, Sheppard said he hopes what happened to him brings more public awareness.
“I hope its gets attention about being more weather aware and careful in lightning storms," he said.