Hiker's clothes blown off by lightning

Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-27 06:00:52-04

SACRAMENTO, CA (KOVR/KMAX/CNN) – An Austrian hiker is now recovering in a California hospital after he was struck by a lightning bolt that blew his clothes off.

Three hikers, two from Austria and one from California, went hiking on a mountaintop during an electrical storm Tuesday. They say there were no signs of thunderstorms during the hike.

But suddenly, as one hiker moved ahead, his girlfriend and friend heard a large crack and saw a flash of light near him, according to the California Highway Patrol’s Facebook page.

Worried about subsequent strikes, the two stayed away from the site but called 911 for help and attempted to make voice contact with the victim. Eventually, he started to wave his arms and yell to them.

A helicopter with CHP arrived on the scene and located the victim on the mountain’s summit. Paramedic Officer Matt Calcutt made contact with the victim, according to CHP.

Calcutt says he’d never seen anything like it, and the victim’s clothes were literally blown off. The man had trouble walking, so Calcutt assisted him to the helicopter where he was then transported to the hospital.

The victim sustained major burns throughout his body as a result of the lightning strike, CHP says. He was flown to the UC Davis Burn Center for further treatment and is now recovering.

“The fact that he survived is very lucky,” said Jim Matthews, a forecaster with the National Weather Center.

Matthews says you have a one in a million chance of getting struck by lightning, but the odds increase with elevation, particularly during a storm.

There were upwards of 800 strikes all across the Sierra Nevada mountains during Tuesday’s storm, Matthews says.

“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.

Even the most experienced hikers can run into trouble fast when a storm blows in, Matthews says, and these three hikers are lucky to be alive.

Copyright 2017 KOVR, KMAX, California Highway Patrol, Facebook via CNN. All rights reserved.