"It started coming down really bad. Hailing, thunder. Lighting. You could see the lightning a good hundred yards away."
Gregory Jenkyns was working at Mountain View Middle School on May 22, when a severe spring storm started dumping rain and hail right around pick up time.
The school security guard was struck by lightning, suffering severe cardiac distress.
"That day was a crazy day," Jenkyns recalled. "It started coming down really bad."
He captured cell phone video of the deluge right before school dismissal, in which Jenkyns can be heard saying, "Are you kidding me in May? It's snowing! Hail! Lighting! (Boom.) Thunder..."
Speaking from his home in Beaumont, Greg retold how he "radioed in and said 'Hey, we have a lot of lightning.'"
Jenkyns was huddled under an umbrella with one of the coaches-- directing kids to stay under the awnings as parents approached for pick up.
"A couple minutes later, Lightning struck. It was just a big flash," he recalled.
Snapchat video-- shows the moment that arc of lightning struck-- in slow motion- just as Jenkyns remembers it.
"It was just a crazy flash. Me and (the coach) looked at the umbrella shaft. And as we looked up, we saw the electricity going, zzz down. And my hand, I was holding it. The coach yelled, 'Throw the umbrella!' But it was too late."
The coach beside Jenkyns was zapped in a side splash-- but Jenkyns took a more direct hit.
"It was just horrible. Horrible. It's like you're dead. You can't move. Everything is flashing in front of you. It's just real scary, super, super scary."
Paramedics told Jenkyns the leather gloves he was wearing saved his life.
Jenkyns is still undergoing a painful recovery, with carpal tunnel in both hands.
"I've broken my phone twice," he said, because of dropping it. "Yeah, it cramps up, falls right out of my hand."
He also has nerve damage, unable to feel in at least two fingers.
"When I go to the doctors they'll scratch their heads. Because they don't have survivors," said Jenkyns. "They don't have people in there, or treated someone with lightning. Lightning is nothing like electricity you know."
"I have a muscle in my neck that still hasn't gone on the contractions. And then headaches. Everything...When it rains, when I see it outside, my heart starts just jumping, all through here. It's a horrible thing. It's in my head, 'Am I going to get struck?'"
Jenkyns is still waiting for worker's compensation to approve his psychiatric therapy. He's already been denied once. He has also experienced an unusual side effect that he noticed for the first time while polishing his son's football ring.
"I just heard the click, click click, and I heard him go 'Ow, ow,' and I started laughing, like 'What's wrong?' He said there was electricity coming out of my elbow. Little hairs of electricity. He said you could see it. It was blue. And it was hitting him."
Jenkyns is trying to get back to work deejaying parties for the school district and watching over his students.
"I miss the kids," said Jenkyns. "I love being around them, they're funny."
Many of them called him Superman, even before the lightning strike, and some of the cards his students have sent are cheering up the man who used to do the cheering up.
"Everyone likes to make jokes like 'buy a lottery ticket,' but the lottery ticket with me is having my life. That's what I won. So I'd rather have that than any money."
What does lightning do to a person's body?
"Lightning Injuries can occur both immediately and shortly after the strike," shares Adrian Cotton, MD, Chief of Medical Operations at Loma Linda University Health. "The human body is not designed to withstand this type of massive electrical pulse, and the heat that can be generated from a strike can burn and destroy a person’s tissue and/or skin. Another concern is that a lightning strike holds the potential to basically short-circuit the heart, causing it to beat irregularly or cease beating altogether.
Other side effects that may present include damage to the nervous system — including the brain — causing seizures, loss of consciousness or other issues. The CDC offers lightning safety specific information that can be helpful to know as well."
How to protect yourself from lightning strikes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to avoid getting struck by lightning:
Safety precautions outdoors
- If the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity.
- Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. Find a safe, enclosed shelter.
- Don’t forget the 30-30 rule. After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
- If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away.
- Stay away from concrete floors or walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.Although you should move into a non-concrete structure if possible, being indoors does not automatically protect you from lightning. In fact, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors.
Safety precautions indoors
- Avoid water during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
- Avoid electronic equipment of all types. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems.
- Avoid corded phones. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
- Avoid concrete floors and walls.