A Bolt From The Blue

Posted on August 20, 2014 under Storytelling with one comment


For Sale: Air conditioned house



Summer is the most wonderful time of the year.  This summer has been particularly good, with long stretches of warm, sunny weather.  In fact, some say that this has been one of the hottest and driest summers on record.  It is also the time of the year that families get together for vacations, weddings and festivals.  In other words, it’s been busy.  The old “feast or famine” conundrum.  So when you finally get a weekend when you have no company and no other commitments, you look forward to some peace and quiet.

And then lightning strikes.

The cancellation of the Antigonish Art Fair provided a rare chance for us to have a relaxing Friday evening at home.  There were severe thunderstorm warnings in the area and the organizing committee had made the prudent call to cancel the event.   I arrived home late in the afternoon and indulged in a crossword puzzle.

It was very dark and there was a constant rumble overhead, with lightning and intermittent periods of heavy rain.

You often watch interviews on television where people are trying to describe the sound of a hurricane.  It’s hard to accurately put it into words.  They say that a tornado sounds like a train rumbling straight toward you.  The sound of the simultaneous thunder and lightning hit was deafening.  The house shook.  I shook.  I thought that the house was going to split in two.  “That was close” I thought.  Shaken, but undeterred, I moved to the clue for 15 down.

At this point, I had no idea of the damage that the house had incurred.

All of our spouses have special “looks”.  You know when they’re happy (occasionally), when they’re annoyed with you (frequently), when they’re sad (arriving at Value Village to find it closed for inventory) and when they are worried (most often about children and grandchildren).  When there is something seriously wrong, well, that is a totally different look altogether.

When my wife arrived home from work, she rushed into the house half expecting to find me deep-fried on the kitchen floor.  But no, I had just moved on to 21 across.

“Our house has been struck by lightning!” she gasped.  I never doubt the veracity of my wife’s statements.  Well, maybe once in a while.  “You’re kidding me.” was my terse reply.  That’s when I got the “Are you stunned?” look.  She escorted me outside and we both gazed up at a big, jagged hole at the peak of the roof.  There was also a considerable debris field of shingles, siding and wood splinters scattered between our lawn and the neighbor’s.

We quickly made our way upstairs to find the power out and the fan cover in the bathroom blown off.  She lifted the hatch to the attic and we smelled smoke.

There was no visible sign of fire but we decided not to take any chances.  I called 911 and explained the situation calmly to the dispatcher.  I told her that there wasn’t a big panic and this was more of a precautionary call than anything.

Within minutes we could hear the sirens and, in the blink of an eye, every fire truck in town was in our driveway and on the street.  Closely following the emergency vehicles was a long line of spectators.  We thought about charging admission.  Our neighbors, as always, were ready to assist in any way.

Next door there is a family with three small children and this was easily the most exciting day of their young lives.  Nestled in their grandparents’ arms, they watched as the firemen climbed ladders and entered the house, fully geared and prepared for the worst.

We were very impressed with the members of our town fire department.  They were very calm and exceedingly professional.  They took their thermal camera into the attic and quickly ascertained that there was no fire lurking in the ceiling or the walls.  It was all over in an hour or so.

Because of social media, the word spread rapidly, leading to a steady stream of curious onlookers which only subsided three days later.

We all react to stress differently.  Once I knew that we weren’t in any danger, I calmly drove to Brendan’s and bought a lottery ticket.

The damage is still being assessed but one thing we knew immediately is that we had lost phone, internet and cable TV services.  This was more than a bit disconcerting for my wife, who wondered how she would find out where the yard sales were going to be the following morning.   My concern was much more urgent; I wouldn’t be able to watch the conclusion of round 2 of the PGA Championship.

The best news of all was that there was no damage to the coffee maker.

Of course, many of our friends who knew that our house had recently been on the market took the opportunity to weigh in.  We were advised that we could now state that the house includes air conditioning.  And that lightning never strikes twice.  A witty family member declared that she always knew that we had a better chance of being hit by lightning than selling our house.

I had a birthday a few days after the “bolt from the blue”.   My wife made me a lovely cake and my present was a bag of mulch.   She puttered around the flower beds in between cloudbursts and snippets of the final round of the PGA.

I know exactly what I will be getting her when her special day rolls around.  An Antigonish Town Volunteer Fire Department calendar.  If there isn’t one there should be.  Thanks, folks.



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