Emily Davis
Emily Davis, who was struck by lightning in Berkeley on March 31, 2014. Photo: courtesy Emily Davis

Emily Davis was struck by lightning in Berkeley on Monday while crossing the road during a dramatic storm. Although she was shaken and suffered some after-effects, Davis was not seriously injured. However the experience, she said, has left her feeling lucky to be alive.

Davis, 31, was standing on the median at the intersection of Adeline and Stuart streets at around 1 p.m. when she was struck. She was heading to Berkeley Bowl to buy lunch for her boyfriend who works at the nearby Berkeley Honda.

She heard a first clap of thunder which, she said, sounded like a bomb exploding.

The first she knew of being struck was when she felt a “terrible” metallic taste in her mouth.

“Then I saw an orb of light travel down the umbrella handle I was holding in my right hand,” Davis said.

“Thankfully I was holding the plastic end of the umbrella, or else I would’ve been in big trouble,” she told Berkeleyside.

Davis’ heart began beating very fast. “I think out of both the literal and physical shock,” she said. And her left arm — not the one she was using to hold the umbrella — started shaking uncontrollably.

The coffee she was holding in her left hand was thrown to the ground.

The median on Adeline Street at Stuart near Berkeley Bowl where Davis was struck by lightning. Photo: Google Maps

“It was absolutely terrifying,” she said Monday evening. “My heart was racing. I am just thankful that my shoes had no metal in them.”

The metallic taste in her mouth persisted. Later in the evening, after Davis’ boyfriend had driven her home, he kissed her goodbye and said she tasted strongly of metal.

Davis, who moved to the Bay Area from Missouri seven years ago and works in San Francisco, said the experience became even more significant after she called her father.

“He told me that my great great great grandfather was struck and killed by lightning while sitting on a horse,” she said.

According to the National Weather Service, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are 1 in 500,000. About 60 people each year are killed by lightning in the United States, and several hundred are injured.

Remarkably cheerful, and grateful that she escaped a worse fate, Davis laughed while pointing out the irony of growing up in a state that sees a lot of thunderstorms, and then being struck by lightning in Berkeley where bolts of lightning are fairly rare.

Davis was curious to know if her experience might have been caught on film and, once safely home, called Walgreens, which has a store adjacent to the spot where she was struck, and the city of Berkeley, to inquire about the location of security cameras. Both said they did not have cameras trained on that location.

“I want proof,” Davis said.

Shortly after being struck, Davis heard a second loud thunderclap and saw the Berkeley Fire Department at Station 5 on Shattuck Avenue respond to what she later realized was the “exploding” redwood tree on Holly and Buena that saw large chunks of wood flying as far as two blocks away after being shredded by a lightning bolt. It reenforced for her the significance of what had happened.

Meanwhile Davis’ father, who, like her grandfather, is an electrician, told her it could have been much more serious.

“I could have been burned, or my heart could have stopped,” she said. “I’m feeling so lucky.”

Lightning strikes Berkeley tree, sends wood chunks flying (03.31.14)
Lightning strikes Bay Bridge in midst of dramatic storm (04.13.12)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...