SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – An Austrian hiker who was struck by lightning in the Sierra and survived is now recovering at UC Davis medical center.
“The fact that he survived is very lucky,” said Jim Matthews, a forecaster with the National Weather Center.
Matthews said you have about a one in a million chance of getting struck by lightning, but hiking on a mountain top during an electrical storm increases those odds exponentially.
“The storms can develop very rapidly and be on top of you in a matter of seconds, it seems,” he said.
During Tuesday’s storm, Matthews said it was nearly inevitable for an Austrian man and his companions.
“Not surprised at all. I think it’s very fortunate that he survived and that’s good news,” he said.
Officers shot video from the CHP helicopter while responding to the victim at Tinker Knob, just 8 miles south of Soda Springs.
Paramedic Matt Calcutt with CHP said he has never seen anything like it. The boulder looked like it had exploded into small desks across the ridge.
“We took a look at the radar from around the same time as the strike from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. where 44 lightning bolts struck just west of the Tahoe area,” he said.
Matthews said all across the Sierra there were upwards of 800 strikes.
“Rather substantial outbreak for Northern California,” Matthews said.
Calcutt described the rescue and says the victim’s clothes were literally blown off.
“Five times hotter than the surface of the sun. So imagine all that heat going through your body in a very short period of time. In an instant, you could literally, seemingly, explode,” he said.
Matthews said even the most experienced hikers can run into trouble fast and these three hikers are lucky to be alive.
According to those close to the victim, he’s going to make a full recovery.