ENID, Okla. — Doug Stafford was ironing some clothing and watching Netflix at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, 2019, when a loud pop made his ears ring, sheetrock from the wall and outlet in front of him flew into his face and the room immediately went dark.
“It happened so fast, and I was so disoriented after it happened,” said Stafford, who is assistant superintendent of secondary education for Enid Public Schools. “I was like, ‘What just happened? What just hit me in the face, why do I see sparks and why do I smell smoke?’”
Stafford's first thought was for his kids. He shouted for them, but they were not inside, and he was nervous at first at what he might find outside.
“The girls went to Sonic,” Stafford said. “Had my girls been here five more minutes outside, there’s no telling what could’ve happened.”
The scene outside was clear: Lightning had struck the large sycamore tree in his front yard, of the Woodlands neighborhood. Strips of bark strewn across the yard and bare patches on the tree’s trunk illustrated the lightning bolt’s path. A large divot of dirt was taken out of the base of the tree, with a hole exposing a damaged sprinkler system that the lightning’s energy traveled through to reach Stafford’s home.
A piece of an outdoor outlet hung from one of the home’s eaves right outside where Stafford was ironing, where the lightning’s energy erupted through his home to cause the wall surrounding the outlet to explode into Stafford’s face.
The energy traveled through the sprinkler system further to Stafford’s sprinkler control box in the garage, which exploded and blew a hole in the wall. The control box was not even plugged in.
“It blew that up, and then it took the cover off the garage door (opener),” Stafford said.
After realizing the initial damage and being almost completely in the dark, Stafford called the fire department, a representative of which told him to turn off all electricity completely and have an electrician come out the next day. Stafford and his family spent the night at his in-laws, and he was finally able to go to bed at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“The smoke scared me, because I thought, ‘I don’t want the house to catch on fire,’” Stafford said.
Assessing the damage the next day, Stafford said the lightning tripped six breakers in the house and created two holes in the wall when the energy flowed through the sprinkler and the outlets. He had electricians going through the house Wednesday to repair the breakers and check if various appliances are working, like his television, which was on at the time of the strike. He said he may have to remove the damaged tree.
The next time a thunderstorm rolls over his home, he said he will be inside, away from the windows and without an iron in his hand.
“It was a scary deal,” Stafford said. “It could have been a lot worse.”