Lightning survivor marks recovery with a permanent reminder

·4 min read

John Moberg and his daughter, Ashley Moberg, have fully recovered months after being struck by lightning earlier this year.

The father and daughter were attending a spring training MLB game between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves in Tampa when the unthinkable happened.

As the sixth inning was underway, the game was called off due to thunderstorms in the area, which was under a severe thunderstorm watch. Lightning was approaching the area of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, the spring training home stadium of the Yankees, where the game was being played in early April.

The two were unable to find their car as the storm approached, so they ran under a tree. John tried to use the key to set off the car alarm in an attempt to find it when lightning struck the two.

"I had bent down to adjust my shoe, then a flash and a boom, and we were flying through the air," Ashley recalled in an interview with AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor.

John was knocked unconscious by the strike and suffered a broken cheekbone. "I was unconscious for a moment," John explained to Victor. "When I woke up, I was totally paralyzed and my face was in the mud." That's when he realized his daughter was on the ground several feet away.

Ashley sustained a burn to her neck caused by the necklace she was wearing after it heated up from the lightning strike.

The father and daughter spent two days in the hospital before being released. Ashley noted that they were scanned to ensure that the paralysis was temporary and they were checked for any fractures. The Yankees reached out while the family was still in the hospital and gave them an autographed baseball from Aaron Judge and free tickets to a Yankees regular season game.

After checking out of the hospital, the two returned home to their house in a western suburb of Chicago where they continued to recover.

"That's probably the only residual thing," John said, noting that the vulnerability of the situation has hit him in the aftermath.

That, and they feel lucky to be alive.

Ashley even got a tattoo for her birthday to remember the incident by -- a lightning bolt over the scar on her neck caused by the strike.

"I wanted something -- even if the scar faded -- permanent to remind me of it," said Ashley.

John and Ashley recently attended their first Yankees game since they were injured at the spring training game back in April.

Four months later, the two have fully recovered from the incident, but they are continuing to warn others not to make the same mistake they did.

"You never think something is going to happen to you," John said, adding the importance of heeding weather warnings.

Lightning is much more common at baseball games than one would think. According to a journal article published this March in Weather, Climate, and Society, author Chris Vagasky, a lightning data and safety specialist at the National Lightning Safety Council, analyzed lightning strikes at baseball games from 2016 to 2019 and discovered that 717 games were found to have lightning within an 8-mile distance of the stadium.

Vagasky, who also works for the Finland-based lightning research firm Vaisala, determined that one out of every 14 Major League Baseball games has lightning within what lightning safety experts would deem an unsafe distance.

However, these statistics shouldn't deter people from enjoying a baseball game or any outdoor event. Mary Ann Cooper, MD, the medical and lightning safety specialist at the National Lightning Safety Council, said that whether at a baseball game, a kid's soccer game or just spending time outdoors, always have a safety plan and know the weather.

"It will be very hard to dodge lightning once it starts coming out of the sky because it's coming out of the sky at about 200,000 mph," Vagasky said to AccuWeather in an interview.

In the latest string of lightning fatalities this season, three people were struck and killed by lightning while under a tree across the street from the White House last week. After the incident, John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council, stressed the importance of finding safe shelter anytime a thunderstorm is around.

Being inside a building or a fully enclosed, metal-topped vehicle is best, he noted, adding that the tragedy underscores the danger of sheltering under a tree. "Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in the immediate area, which is often a tree," Jensenius said.

Reporting by Emmy Victor.

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