Lightning!

By Sue, Greg and James Super

Sycamore Islander, August 2000



Before the storm, conditions on the river were great
for canoeing. Guests Floyd Thompson, with
daughters Heather and Becca give it a try.
We should have realized that June 17 would not be ordinary. First the original plan for the day went awry. Having made reservations weeks earlier for a family picnic on Sycamore Island, when the date drew closer and we called to confirm the event with Greg’s relatives, none of them could make it. So we turned to plan B, inviting other friends for an impromptu barbecue picnic and ending up with a smaller but very congenial group of 13 (8 grownups and 5 teens--of whom 3 were 13!) -- not counting the geese, who joined the party later.


All afternoon the storms kept to the south and east of Sycamore Island,
creating dramatic lighting effects on the river as a backdrop for this
Canada Goose and giving us some forewarning of what was to come.
Rest assured, we’re not superstitious and didn’t attach any significance to that number. However, we were taken aback when we started introductions as our guests arrived and realized that all three of the women were named Linda (Steve and Linda Ward, Floyd and Linda Thompson, and Eric and Linda Feldman). if the other couple we called had been able to make it, we would have been joined by Lynn McLeod and Mark Dorfman, too. After that, we stopped keeping track of even more coincidences that kept accumulating....

Sometime after the lightning strike across the canal, we figured it was safe
to leave and found evidence of the bolt in a dramatically frayed telephone
line draped across the towpath. From left: Sue Super,
Doc Taliaferro, Nick Wang, James Super, Andrew Lund, Linda Ward.
Despite the heat and humidity, there was cool shade on the float by the river and we had a wonderful time sharing Sycamore Island with our friends. With several experienced paddlers in the group, we took out two canoes and observed happily as ominous clouds stayed well east and south of the island. Conditions continued to be lovely until after dinner, when Doc came out to warn us that the television weather reports showed thunder storms approaching from the west. Two couples decided to depart then, while the rest of us lingered to enjoy the view from the porch until rain drove us inside for some old-fashioned
The lightning left a noticeable scar on the tree that
was hit. Shreds of bark were scattered along the
footpath below, along with pieces of the equipment
that had been attached to the wires.
matches of ping-pong and pool. The rain was heavy at times, but there was surprisingly little thunder and lightning, so we were totally unprepared for the sudden, deafening crash and flash of lightning striking on the hillside just across the canal. A couple of us literally jumped out of our chairs to the floor until we realized what had happened. Steve said it sounded like being on an artillery range again in the army. Spotting the smoking tree on the hillside, we ventured outside and met Doe and Phyllis who described their harrowing experience when the “bolt out of the blue” (which Doc described in the July Sycamore Islander) shot out of the wall, fried their computer and fax, and tripped all the downstairs breakers. All was quiet again after that one bolt, but it took some time before we were comfortable enough to make the ferry crossing. There we encountered the frayed, exploded phone line across the towpath and played detective tracing the path of the lightning as we climbed the footpath.




Greg couldn’t resist getting
a sample of the telephone line,
which he shared with Phyllis and Doc.
We were grateful that no one was on the footbridge or the
footpath when the lightning struck the tree and lines.