BRAINERD, Minn. - A 15-year-old boy was struck by lightning early Saturday, June 30, escaping the ordeal with just marks on his back and shoulder-and a remarkable story to tell.
Corey Wilmer of Oak Grove was sleeping in what the family calls the "Man Cave," a small cabin built on their park model property at Donneybrook Farms, a lake association on North Long Lake, north of Brainerd.
Wilmer, a junior at St. Francis High School in St. Francis, said the lightning struck about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. His friend Josh Tope also was in the cabin and slept through the whole thing.
"I was already awake. ... I've always been afraid of storms so I was trying to convince myself to fall asleep and it just struck," Wilmer said of the lightning strike. "We believe it hit the roof, traveling down through the siding here where it cracked and it happen to pass through me. The cabin took most of the lightning and I just took a part it.
"The lightning lifted me off my bed and it was a short amount of like extreme burning pain. ... Once it passed through I just snapped and woke me up, I mean I was awake but ... I only felt the pain when it passed though.
"It came in through my shoulder and exited my back. I got up right away and I couldn't move my shoulder. ... I got up and saw my bed was on fire and I had a half bottle of water sitting by the bed and attempted to put it out but it didn't work. I woke up my friend and my stepdad threw the bed out (of the cabin) and we went to the Brainerd hospital."
Wilmer said the lightning left white markings on his shoulder and back immediately after it struck, and then the markings changed to a spider web pattern. The markings are quickly fading and as of Sunday afternoon the one on his shoulder was gone, but the one of his back was still visible.
"I thought it was some sort of nuclear bomb," Wilmer said of his first thoughts that went through his brain when the incident happened. "I quickly realized it was lightning and my ears were ringing and it was so surreal."
The family said the lightning went through the roof, leaving a hole. Once inside it passed through Wilmer, the boxspring of the bed and exited the cabin through an electrical outlet, breaking a window. The electrical wiring in the cabin and the air conditioner were damaged from the lightning strike.
"There are lots of things to worry about when you have kids and the last thing you worry about is them being hit by lightning in their bed," Kristi Griego, Wilmer's mom, said. "We are so grateful nothing major happened to him and that someone is watching out for him. We have a happy ending story and a great one to tell."
Griego, as well as others, at first found it difficult to believe Wilmer was actually struck by lightning.
"We didn't believe it," Griego said. "He was walking and talking and was fine. We took him to the Brainerd hospital and no one believed it, either, and said 'We have to see this.'"
Wilmer now has a new nickname as people in the park are calling him "The Flash," the DC Comics character who gained superspeed after being hit by lightning. Wilmer, though, said he didn't think he could run any faster than normal. He joked that the worst part "about all of this is it scared the fish out further" on North Long Lake.
Damage reported to the National Weather Service in Duluth following a thunderstorm early Saturday morning included trees downed in Pequot Lakes, Crosby and in southern Crow Wing County near Highway 25. Other damage in the southern part of the county included a shed and a corral fence.
The storm brought wind gusts as high as 50 mph northeast of Brainerd, quarter-inch hail in Breezy Point and nickel-sized hail at Big Sandy Lake in Aitkin County. About a half-inch of rain was reported at 2 a.m. Saturday and .65 inches Sunday for Brainerd, as measured at the Brainerd lakes Regional Airport.
Almost 500 Crow Wing Power residents were out of power from the Friday night/Saturday morning storm. Char Kinzer, public relations manager for Crow Wing Power, said crews began getting calls around 2 a.m. Saturday and the power outages were sporadic all over its service area. Crow Wing Power serves more than a 5,200 square-mile area from Remer to Royalton and from Motley to Crosby. Nine crews of two were out working and got everything cleaned up by 7 p.m. Saturday, except for six households. Kinzer said these places have to have their own electricians come in to do some work before Crow Wing Power is able to do their service work.
Kinzer said when it came to downed trees and lightning, the worst of the damage was mainly in the eastern part of its service from Emily to South Long Lake.
Kinzer kept Crow Wing Power's Facebook page up to date to inform residents. She said the main message was to inform people to call in any downed power lines, as people may be traveling and are not home, especially as it is Fourth of July week. She also encouraged people to call if they were out of power as they don't know until it is reported to them.
Nelson's Berries in rural Brainerd also reported damage on its Facebook page. It stated its shed was blown over and moved, the porta potty was tipped over and many large trees blew over. It was going to have to temporary close the farm to berry pickers because of the damage. However, in less than 24 hours, the farm was all cleaned up.
Rain will continue this week, with showers and thunderstorms in the forecast through the Fourth of July. In Brainerd, the NWS reports a 10 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 5 p.m. Monday, July 2, and a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms Monday night. Tuesday there is a 30 percent chance and Wednesday a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs this week will be in the 80s.