Hail, Thunder, Lightning Streak Across Contra Costa County, Bolt Hits Near Oakley Middle School

Hail, thunder and lightning hit parts of Contra Costa County Thursday morning, with a bolt taking out the phones and the PA system at one middle school in Oakley.

The office at O'Hara Middle School smelled like smoke, school officials said, and it became a chaotic scene as parents came to pick up their children. No one was hurt, however, despite the near-miss of lightning.

The National Weather Service reported heavy showers hit Livermore about 7 a.m., and lightning strikes hit the cities of Antioch, San Ramon and Blackhawk a few hours later.

Some people even reported seeing hail.

Jodi Hernandez
The aftermath of a lightning strike in Oakley at Donna Keener's house. May 5, 2016

But the most significant weather event was when a bolt of lightning struck near the school on O'Hara Avenue, taking down the phone lines and power for a while, a district representative said.

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District spokesman Hugh Henderson said one other person at a nearby house suffered some shortness of breath, but no one was actually hit by the lightning. He added the children were shaken up.

Donna Keener was also in the eye of the storm outside her house Thursday morning covering her hay with a tarp when lightning nearly hit her, sending her flying five to eight feet. The lightning struck the family’s flagpole, which splintered, sending pieces of wood flying.

"I can't believe the power, the force this thing had,"  Keener said. "I immediately got on the ground and tucked in."

The jolt caused the family's ceiling fan to come down, shattering its glass fixture. Pictures also were knocked off the wall. Keener's 10-year-old grandson, Billy, was in the living room with his uncle and dove to the floor. He said it sounded like 10 grenades or a cannon went off.

The weather pattern was slightly out of the norm for mid-May. "This is not normal," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Benjamin, "but it's not an unusual occurance, either."

He said the Bay Area is experiencing unstable air from the Gulf of Alaska.

NBC Bay Area's John Zuchelli and Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

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