SEATTLE (AP) — A motorcyclist riding on Interstate 5 survived a lightning strike Thursday as a tumultuous day of weather saw thunderstorms and rain roll through Washington on both sides of the Cascade Mountains.
The biker was riding through Chehalis in western Washington when the lightning hit Thursday morning, Washington State Patrol Trooper William Finn said.
Witness Martin Zapalac told KOMO-TV the motorcyclist had just passed him when the man and his bike “lit up.” The biker managed to pull over on the highway shoulder and the witness drove with him to a nearby gas station.
The 59-year-old Tenino, Wash., motorcyclist was treated locally for burns to his ears, then taken to a Seattle hospital where he was reported in satisfactory condition.
“It is amazing he is alive, walking, talking and didn’t crash his motorcycle,” Chehalis firefighter Steve Emrich told the Chronicle of Centralia. “It was basically a direct hit right through the helmet.”
The man did not remember the lightning strike, Emrich said.
By Thursday night, “tons of showers” and thunderstorms had been reported all over Eastern Washington, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike McFarland in Seattle.
State Highway 410 was closed Thursday night northwest of Yakima due to several mudslides over the roadway, the Washington Transportation Department said. The slides hit nine miles west of the junction with U.S. Highway 12. Transportation officials did not know when the highway would reopen.
In southwest Washington, McFarland said not all of the heaviest rain in the Winlock and Toledo area fell near rain gauges. Nearby Centralia recorded 1 ½ inches in 12 hours, he said.
Scattered power outages were reported.
Heavy, steady rain was forecast for Western Washington overnight and into Friday morning, he said.
The Weather Service cautioned that the rain could mean flooding in widespread areas after a dry summer.
In eastern Washington, areas of particular concern were those burned by summer wildfires. Those areas are susceptible to flash floods, debris flows and mudslides.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.