DAPHNE — Worried about the safety of her family during a stormy Memorial Day trip to the beach, Clara Jean Brown stood in her kitchen and prayed for their safe return as a strong thunderstorm raged through Baldwin County.
Suddenly, lightning exploded, blowing through the linoleum and leaving a pockmarked area on the concrete. Brown wound up on the floor, dazed and disoriented by the blast but otherwise uninjured.
“I said, ‘Amen,’ and the room was engulfed in a huge ball of fire,” she said. “I’m blessed to be alive.”
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Brown, 65, was hit by a bolt of lightning that apparently struck outside and traveled into the house Monday afternoon. She doesn’t know how much time passed while she remained disoriented on the floor before Jamie Matthews, her 14-year-old granddaughter, discovered her after returning from the beach.
“I was just standing there when a huge ball of fire engulfed this whole room. I don’t remember much after that,” Brown said hours later as her family helped clean her home. “Concrete was everywhere.”
Brown was at home alone when the storm hit, while her husband, James Brown, was at the store and her son and his family were on their way back from the beach.
James Brown said fire officials told him lightning likely struck across the street from the couple’s home and traveled into the house through a water line. The lightning continued into the couple’s backyard and ripped open a small trench, James Brown said. Pieces of concrete were scattered throughout the family’s kitchen — ruining day-old brownies sitting on the stove.
“Never in my life did I think something like this could happen,” James Brown told the Press-Register. “I always thought if you’re in a house that you’re safe. That’s not the case.”
Clara Jean Brown said paramedics suggested she go to the hospital, but she chose to stay at home with her family.
“I’m blessed. That’s the good news,” she said.
Eric Esbensen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile, said dime-sized hail and wind gusts of up to 45 mph were reported in coastal Baldwin County. As much as 3 inches of rain fell in some areas in three hours, he said.