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Bolt from above: Man's car hit by lightning as he drives to work

A maintenance worker at the Becker County Courthouse got a rude awakening Friday morning when his car was hit by lightning as he was driving to work.

Bob Schlauderaff was not hurt, but the lightning killed a cell phone on his belt, left some strange burn and puncture marks on his 1989 Honda Civic, and punctured a tire.

He was driving to work from Frazee on Highway 10 about 7:10 a.m., during a thunderstorm, when he saw a lightning bolt strike near the roadway.

"The thought just crossed my mind, "I wonder if lightning ever strikes cars?'" he said. "And boom -- it happened."

He saw a flash of light and heard what sounded like a loud explosion, but he wasn't sure what had happened.

"There was a car that went by me just exactly as it happened," he said. "They were just looking at me -- I don't know if they were in shock or what."

Soon after that he realized his right rear tire was flat, and pulled over to fix it. A state trooper pulled up a short while later to see if he needed help with the tire.

"It (the lightning strike) didn't effect me at all," Schlauderaff said. "The generator light went on, then went off. It didn't effect the engine at all."

It burned a swath of paint off from the antenna back on the roof over the driver's side of the car, and left three distinct holes in the roof, the largest one about the size of a bullet hole.

It also left two holes on the bottom and side of the driver's door, placed in such a way so that "it almost welded the door shut," Schlauderaff said.

He only has liability insurance on the car, and hopes nothing more serious goes wrong from the lightning strike, because he has owned it for 15 years and it has nearly 300,000 miles on it.

"I will patch up the holes as best I can and keep driving it," he said. "It gets 35 miles to the gallon."

Often, the metal shell of a motor vehicle moves a lightning strike around people inside, but they can still suffer burns if they are touching metal objects -- such as police officers talking on their squad car radios, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute.

Door and window handles, radio dials, CB microphones, gearshifts, steering wheels, and other inside-to-outside metal objects should be left alone during close-in lightning events.

The Lightning Safety Institute suggests pulling off to the side of the road in a safe manner, turning on the emergency blinkers, turning off the engine, putting your hands in your lap, and waiting out the storm.