Long Beach firefighters tended to two beachgoers and three lifeguards Thursday evening after a single lightning strike hit the beach during the height of the city’s Surf Week — an image captured by a drone filming a competition, officials said.
Spectators and lifeguards were standing on the beach about 5 p.m. near National Boulevard when a towering lightning strike came crashing onto the beach. Firefighters and paramedics treated five patients for “after shocks” felt as a result of the strike, such as a tingling feeling, Long Beach Professional firefighters and Long Beach Lifeguard Chief Paul Gillespie said.
None of the injuries were serious, Gillespie said. Three lifeguards were evaluated, including one man who reported tingling in his arm. All of the lifeguards were back to work Friday.
Two civilians were also treated, including one man who was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside for evaluation.
Lifeguards had begun to evacuate the beach when the storm quickly rolled in.
“That cell came in so fast. I’ve never seen it come through like that before,” Gillespie said. “In fifteen minutes, it was a beautiful summer day again.”
Jason Belsky was filming the surfing finals for Skudin Surf when the storm rolled over surfers still in the water.
While standing on the beach, his drone was filming about 50 feet off shore and about 10 to 15 feet over the water when it captured the lightning strike hit the beach.
“It was like ‘Boom!’ right in frame. It was pretty sick actually,” Belsky said. “We’re all used to getting thunder showers in Long Beach but it got really dark in about 60 seconds and the one lightning bolt came down and then the rain came down. It was pretty crazy.”
The National Weather Service recorded a group of people struck by lightning at 4:50 p.m. and reports of one person hospitalized.
A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for northern Nassau County and western Suffolk County until 5:15 p.m., but did not apply to Long Beach. The warning only applies to winds above 58 mph or hail an inch or larger and does not necessarily predict lightning, forecasters said.
“All thunderstorms, by definition, mean lighting is a constant factor,” weather service meteorologist Tim Morrin said. “Unfortunately a cloud to ground lightning strike impact occurred and injured some folks.”