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Aftershocks of the lightning strike in Venice

I was knee-deep in the ocean Sunday afternoon, right next to the Venice Fishing Pier, when the deadly lightning bolt hit the water.

An explosion erupted above my head. An enormous, white light broke the sky above me. A huge roar echoed across the beach. I still had a Starbucks coffee and flip flops in my hands, but those hands had gone numb.

Seconds later, the bright light disappeared and the thunder was replaced with sounds of chaos. Amanda, my college roommate, had been visiting for the weekend, when we stopped by the beach that afternoon. We’d stopped to pick up Sam, a friend who lives on a houseboat in the marina.

When the lightning hit, we all ran out of the water and under the pier. As Sam and Amanda caught their breath, my attention was focused on my tingling left kneecap. The joints in my fingers felt tender and my hands were suddenly tingling as well.

Amanda told me the lightning bolt had hit the water directly behind me, about 30 feet away. I would later learn, via the Weather Channel, the lightning strike electrified the water for about 50 yards around it. I had been standing knee-deep in what they called the “hot zone.”

Dozens of people poured out of the ocean, sprinting, while others ran into the water to attend to surfers and swimmers.

I began to regain sensation in my hands, and ignored my tingling knee, as we left the beach. As we climbed into my car, I brushed the sand from my feet, which sent a small but sharp sensation through my ankle. The sand felt more grainy than usual on my fingertips.

I felt more scattered and anxious than usual, but I had to drive. After dropping off Sam off at her boat and Amanda at LAX, I could hardly focus on where I was going.

I spent about 45 minutes walking around Fresco Community Market, my favorite grocery store, forgetting why I was in that aisle.

At home, a few minutes after I finished a grilled sandwich, my parents walked in the door and I told them about my wild afternoon. I insisted I was fine, and I really thought I was.

As I stood up, my legs grew weak and my fingers began to tingle again.

I went to my bedroom, lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I have a long-standing sensitivity to fluorescent lights in the kitchen. But usually the dizzy feeling goes away within seconds. Not now. My eyes wanted to close, and suddenly my body felt cold. I reached up to scratch my neck and froze. I looked down as I ran my finger across my neck. The tingly feeling I had felt in my knee and my fingers earlier that day was spreading. It felt as though there were eight layers of skin between my fingertips and the rest of my body.

The inside of my elbow became achy and my muscles became sore with every second that my arm was elevated to reach my neck. The nerves throughout my body felt both electrified and numb.

My parents started asking where my shoes are, if I remember the names of my medication, and what I ate today. I stared blankly at them and didn’t speak. A few minutes later, six or seven paramedics walked through my bedroom. They took my blood pressure and asked me other questions, to which I murmured answers.

The paramedics said that I seemed fine, medically. But the fatigue was overwhelming, and a loud beep from a paramedic’s walkie-talkie gave me a sudden and raging headache. A paramedic offered me a ride to a hospital, but I shook my head.

The electric wave moving across my body had slowed down. When I awoke that evening, I felt tired, but the tingly sensation had stopped.

I felt fine Monday. Those of us in Los Angeles aren’t used to thelightning bolt or heavy summer rainstorm earlier that day. I hadn’t known on Sunday morning that thunder follows lightning, or that untimely rainstorms are something to worry about.

I know now.

Kelsey Hess, a sophomore at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School wrote this for Zocalo Public Square, where she is a sustainability journalism fellow.

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