Lightning bolt burns tent, grazes two campers on Mount Diablo
MOUNT DIABLO -- A lightning bolt ricochet hit two campers huddled in their tent on Mount Diablo on Thursday night, burning holes in the tent and shaking the brothers but not stirring them from their campsite.
The Oakland men told park rangers they each had temporary numbness in part of their body -- one in the leg and one in the shoulder -- and one had a rash consistent with burn symptoms.
Despite torrential rain and the lightning scare, the brothers told a park official they planned to stay on top of the mountain Friday night as well.
While they were lucky to miss a direct hit from the lightning bolt that sheared off a water spigot 40 feet from their tent, then careened into their shelter, that's where the good luck stopped.
Alfred Janske, 59, and his disabled brother George Janske, 57, moved into the campground a week ago. They said they have been without a permanent home since their childhood home in Oakland was foreclosed on in March.
The tent that now shelters them and their three dogs has two holes where the electric current surged to strike two metal objects inside.
"We're camping because we don't have anywhere else to go," said Alfred Janske, an unemployed accountant.
"You ask me about luck. I'm glad we're not hurt. We wouldn't be out here camping if I hadn't lost my job and we weren't evicted from our home that was foreclosed," he said. "As for the lightning, it just happened."
The bolt apparently struck after 10 p.m. not far from the men's tent at the Juniper Campground, the highest and most-exposed campground on the 3,849-foot peak, said Roland Gaebert, park superintendent.
The bolt sheared off a metal water faucet, gouged a hole in a park road and sent a current through the men's tent, he added.
"It was an indirect hit," Gaebert said.
Alfred Janske said he and his brother and their three dogs had been struggling to get to sleep as the heavy wind and rains buffeted their tent.
Janske covered one dog -- a boxer-Australian cattle dog mix named Mindy -- with a blanket to comfort it.
"The lightning was getting closer," he recalled. "Then everything was pure white. There was no sound, but there was a sensation I can't describe in my head. We sat up and said, 'What the hell was that?!' "
The two brothers decided to stay put rather than drive off in their truck. Because no one else was camping out, they had no one to share their story with until Friday morning.
Park rangers making their rounds spotted the severed spigot and twisted and damaged asphalt, and asked the two men Friday what had happened.
The brothers said they were shaken but didn't need medical attention, the park superintendent said. Rangers provided them with a blanket and firewood to help keep them warm inside their lightning-stricken tent.
While lightning is known to strike Mount Diablo, park rangers could not recall any recent instances of a bolt hitting a person, Gaebert said.
Alfred Janske said he doesn't see a deep philosophical meaning behind the close call.
"I do genealogy," he said, "and you read about people who come to America for a better life and all of a sudden they're in the wrong place and they get run over by a streetcar."
Janske said he hopes he can land a job so he and his brother can find a place to live.