How weather set the stage for lightning death on post

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:32 PM EDT
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FORT GORDON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We have new details on a lightning strike that killed one soldier and injured nine during a Fort Gordon training exercise on post.

U.S. Army Reserves Command says Sgt. 1st Class Michael Clark is the soldier who died.

“The 933rd FRSD family is devastated by the loss of our brother, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Clark. Sgt. 1st Class Clark was a loving husband, father, and patriot who deeply loved our country,” said Major Stephen W. Rhinehart in a statement. “Words will never describe how much he will be missed, but his influence on our unit and soldiers will remain forever.”

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Officials say eight other soldiers are in good condition. The father of one of the soldiers told us his daughter was in surgery for at least three hours Thursday afternoon. One has been treated and released.

We’re told soldiers from three different units were performing regional medic training. The lightning strike hit Training Area 26 just after 11 Wednesday morning.

This isn’t the only time this has happened. Back in August of 1982, 20 soldiers were injured when lightning struck a training area on post.

We spent the day looking at the weather conditions that played a role in the lightning strike.

Around the time that the lightning strike was reported, a few storms were popping up on radar around Fort Gordon.

We went to the experts who know a lot about how all of this works. We sat down with News 12 NBC 26 First Alert Meteorologist Mikel Hannah-Harding to understand how this happens and what can be done to prevent it.

“I was very shocked because you don’t hear about lightning deaths,” said Hannah-Harding.

From 2006 to 2021, July saw the most lightning deaths in the U.S. Georgia ranks as one of the highest states for lightning deaths, two-thirds of those coming from people being outside.

“I was also shocked by the amount of people that were injured by one strike. It was a large amount at one time,” he said.

Fort Gordon officials say this happened at a training area on base.

Hannah-Harding walked us through exactly what he saw on the radar. He says lightning can strike 10 miles from the center of a storm.

“You don’t have to be in the worst part of the storm to see impacts from lightning, and I think this is a really good example of that. This is a scan right at 11 a.m., and it’s 10 minutes before it occurred, and you can see that there is light to moderate rain moving into Fort Gordon, but no reds or oranges right over this area. The heaviest part of the storm was southwest of Fort Gordon as it moved through,” he said.

Radar shows there were two or three strikes around Fort Gordon.

“It only takes one for something like yesterday to happen,” he said.

Hannah-Harding says there is no doubt that thunder was able to be heard Wednesday morning. He says when thunder roars, go indoors.

“It is important to take shelter, head indoors, stay away from electronics, plumbing, and don’t be near tall, isolated objects, or metal objects at all outdoors. You want to get indoors,” he said.

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