When lightning struck Kent Lilyerd at his home in Mora, Minn., on June 27, the resilient 47-year-old joined an elite men's club: 89 percent of lightning strike victims are male.

"It has nothing to do with testosterone levels or karma," said meteorologist Paul Douglas, founder of WeatherNation. "Some of it may have something to do with a stubborn streak. I think men, as a rule, may be less willing to come off the golf course or come off the lake, than women."

But the jarring statistic may best be explained by work environment: "I think it's because more men tend to be working outside at the mercy of the elements," Douglas said.

The Twin Cities area has about 40 days of lightning each year, and Minnesota has recorded three strike fatalities since 1997. The metro area has a history of newsmaking lightning strikes: Groups of people were struck at the Minnesota State Fair in 1984 and the U.S. Open in Chaska in 1991. To this day, survivors recall the strikes in vivid detail.


Glenn Engstrom, 53, North Oaks: Struck the morning of June 14, 1991, at the 11th tee of Hazeltine National Golf Club during the U.S. Open in Chaska.

What Engstrom said after the strike, reported June 14, 1991: "All of a sudden, bang! and I felt this jolt," Engstrom said. "My legs went totally numb and I was down. I've never felt anything like that before in my life. I would imagine it was like if you were shot. ... My legs felt like they were 50 feet wide."

Q Describe how you remember the strike.

A That storm came up really fast and people didn't have time to get anywhere. It was probably come and gone in 20 minutes. Because [the rain] was horizontal, we were standing in line behind the tree. ... We all tipped over like a bunch of dominoes. In fact, I remember hearing somebody that came over later said they thought we were faking, just making a joke, because it looked so funny ... then they realized those guys really are hurt. ... My legs did feel like they were gone. I remember looking down.

Q Were there any long-term effects, physical or otherwise?

A No, not for me. I was pretty lucky, obviously very lucky.

Q How do people react to your story? Do you talk about it often?

A Sometimes it comes up out of the blue: "Oh, Glenn, do you remember when you were hit by lightning?" People are always wondering, "How does it feel?"

Q Have you changed your stormy weather behavior?

A If weather comes up, I'm pretty nervous [laughs]. My wife is always nervous about me going out in weather. Every time you take a backswing and hold that six-iron in the air, you think you're going to get nailed. I definitely have a lot more respect for the weather.


Troy Hirdler, 43, Maple Grove: Struck the morning of May 11, 1985, during a softball rain delay at Lake Nokomis. His friend Darryl Skoy was killed.

What Hirdler said after the strike, reported May 12, 1985: "It went through me from behind. It took the feet out right from under me and I fell right on my back. ... I was scared."

Q Describe how you remember the strike.

A Our team was standing under a tree during a rain delay at Field Four. There were actually two rain delays during that morning. The first one we went to our cars because it was coming down pretty hard. For the second one, as the rain was just about letting up, lightning hit the tree and pretty much knocked the whole team into the hospital. ... For me, it pretty much felt like getting blindsided by a Mack truck. I was conscious the whole time. I was basically paralyzed [from the neck down] for a couple hours.

Q Were there any long-term effects, physical or otherwise?

A There was some survivor's guilt in that. Basically our whole team was early 20s and we grew up with each other. ... Whenever there is a strike close by me, I have flashbacks.

Q How do people react to your story? Do you talk about it often?

A I think we would talk about it more if [Skoy] had survived, but some people that were on our team don't talk about it at all.

Q Have you changed your stormy weather behavior?

A I'm more nervous and very quick to get inside and downstairs, just very aware of the weather, especially in Minnesota, where storms come and go pretty quickly.


Steven Tufenk, 58, Maplewood: Struck the morning of June 29, 1991, at the fifth hole of Phalen Park Golf Course in St. Paul.

Q Describe how you remember the strike.

A It wasn't that type of day at all. It was like a little light drizzle. In fact, that was the only lightning strike that day. My friend putted and I putted and my ball went over next to his. We were joking about it and the next thing I knew my head hurt and I was hollerin' to my buddies that my head feels like it was going to explode, I don't know what's going on, I'm going down. They said, 'Steve, relax, you're already on the ground, we were hit with lightning.' I didn't even know I was hit until my head felt like it was going to burst. I couldn't move. ... It threw me about 20 feet through the air.

Q Were there any long-term effects, physical or otherwise?

A It does have a drying effect in your joints. I've got sore joints, but I'm 58 years old. ... Every once in a while my skin gets really sensitive to the touch. ... It used to happen quite a bit, it's lessened.

Q How do people react to your story? Do you talk about it often?

A Normally I don't mind talking about it. It's not a good memory, that's for sure.

Q Have you changed your stormy weather behavior?

A I always respected storms, I grew up that way up at a lake place with my family. So I never go out anyways. When I hear it rumbling, that's it, I go in.

Tony Gonzalez • 612-673-7415