Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bicyclist In Boulder, Co. Survives Lightning Strike

It's amazing that I haven't heard of anty cyclists struck by lightning here in the Tampa Bay area because we are the lightning capital of the country. But one bicyclist in the Boulder, CO area lives to tell the tale of a lightning strike while cycling.

BOULDER, Colo. -- A woman riding her bike in Boulder in training for an Ironman Triathlon was struck by lightning Monday, but was not severely injured.

Terri Menghini was going north on North Foothills Highway, near Longhorn Road, when she was struck around 1 p.m. and thrown off her bike.

The 44-year-old mother of five said she was in Mile 78 of her 100-mile bike ride for the day when she saw a dark cloud overhead. She saw lightning in the distance, and estimated that she could safely race back to her car.

"I thought, 'I'm two miles from my car. That's about five minutes. I'm going to go for it,'" Menghini said.

She was on the crest of hill when lightning struck within 100 feet of her.

"It came out of nowhere," she said. "There was one lightning bolt and within a minute, the second one got me," she said.

Menghini doesn't remember what happened next because she blacked out and woke up to people standing over her, holding umbrellas to cover her from the rain. She couldn't move her arms at first and her vision went from blurry to black.

Meghini was transported to the Boulder Community Hospital, where she recuperated and regained full motion and eyesight. She was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Menghini, who is from St. Louis, Mo. but stays in Estes Park every summer with her family, knows she is extremely lucky.

"I was just lucky. So I'm going to go buy a Powerball ticket now," Menghini said.

All that's left of her harrowing brush with death is a bad road rash and a cracked helmet. She feels she's back to her normal self and was extremely disappointed when doctors prohibited her from competing in the half-Ironman this Sunday. Her doctors are monitoring her heartbeats, which were erratic when she was first admitted, and believe she will be able to compete in the Ironman triathlon later this month.

"My training, I'm still going to do it," she said. "I've been an athlete my whole life, and I'm not going to stop that."

Menghini said she remembers thinking, when she became weak, that she would have to fall to her right so she wouldn't land in traffic.

Menghini, who runs a marathon every month and is outdoors all the time, said she is keenly aware of the dangers of thunderstorms. However, this one developed extremely quickly, she said.

"It wasn't even raining," she said.

The National Weather Service said within the state of Colorado, there are an average of three lightning-related fatalities a year and 15-20 injuries. It is lightning -- and not tornadoes, hail or flooding -- that is the most dangerous weather event to develop from thunderstorms, the NWS said.

The state sees a half-million cloud-to-ground lightning states every year.

If you see lightning and are outdoors, seek shelter in a building or go into a vehicle with a metal roof. "When thunder roars, go indoors," the NWS says.

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