‘Looked like a bomb had gone off.’ Lightning splinters tree outside south Austin home

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — “Just heard a big boom!” That’s how Scott Sternhagen first described the lightning that struck a tree in his front yard in South Austin early Thursday morning.

The explosion littered wood splinters and chips across the front yards and street of two homes on the 4300 block of Copperbend Boulevard. The blast was so powerful a large branch landed across the street.

“It looked like a bomb had gone off because everything was scattered all over,” Sternhagen said. “It was just something I’d never seen before.”

Another branch lay on the roof of one home shattering the front window and breaking the shutters. The air smelled like burned, damaged wood.

Sternhagen told KXAN he has lived in his home for about 30 years and had never seen a lightning strike before. He said the “lights flickered in the house and a couple of things fell off the walls.”

When he came out to investigate, he saw the tree split in half. A part of the tree landed in his neighbors’ living room and they called 911 to alert authorities.

One of those neighbors is Antonio Vazquez, the son of the homeowners next door. The lightning woke him up.

“It’s really shocking, yeah… it was just a really loud pop and then I get up and see like a big hole in our living room,” says Vazquez.

When asked if he’s glad his family is safe, he said “yeah I am.” He considers his family blessed saying “We got lucky, actually, cause it could’ve landed on our house.”

Thankfully, no one was injured.

KXAN Meteorologist David Yeomans confirmed a bolt of lightning struck the address at about 1:33 a.m., right at the height of the stormy weather in Austin. In the video below, Yeomans explains why the damage to the tree is consistent with a lightning strike. 

KXAN Photojournalist Todd Bailey and Meteorologist David Yeomans contributed to this story. 

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