LANDIS, N.C. (WJZY) — A 15-year-old lifeguard is counting her blessings after being struck by lightning in the middle of this week’s severe storms in North Carolina.
Brynnlee Steger, of Kannapolis, said the Landis Pool had already closed to the public due to Monday’s storms and her mom had just arrived to pick her up when the two of them and her lifeguard manager decided to bring in the umbrellas to prevent them from flying away.
“I had bent down to unscrew the bolts underneath the table, and I went to go pick it up, and I heard thunder, so I jumped and turned around,” said Brynnlee. “By the time I turned around, I felt it, like, it hit me, and I felt like my arm had literally got cut off.”
The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado tore through that area of Rowan County on Monday afternoon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the odds of being struck by lightning are less than one in a million.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” said Brynnlee. “It’s insane to think that we could be burying me today. I’m hearing so many people say I’m like a walking miracle.”
The Landis Pool has a policy that no one is allowed on the pool deck while lightning is in the area. Lifeguard manager Mackenzie Chabala said she was trying to mitigate the risks of someone being hit by a flying umbrella but regrets not following the pool rules.
“We were just doing our best and what we thought was the best thing for the pool,” said Chabala. “We were just grabbing those umbrellas. We didn’t want them to fly away. We’ve had umbrellas fly during winds, so we were just trying to bring them into the shelter so it wouldn’t cause any other issues.”
Brynnlee’s mother, Sonya Steger, and Chabala took Brynlee into the pool’s indoor concession area and covered her with blankets to help with the shock. Chabala called 911 and said she worked to keep everyone calm since Sonya Steger and Brynnlee’s 5-year-old sister were visibly upset.
“I just saw orange and blue, like a mass right beside of me,” said Sonya Steger. “When it hit, at that moment, it was just pure fear, not knowing if she was going to be OK.”
Brynnlee spent 24 hours in the hospital and walked away with some nerve damage in her arm. She said she will need physical therapy to help rebuild her muscle strength as well.
Nevertheless, Brynnlee and her family are feeling incredibly lucky – and hopeful that lightning won’t strike the same place twice.
“She had four or five people come up to her saying, ‘You need to buy a lottery ticket!’” her mother said. “I guess she’s lucky. She’s my miracle baby.”
Brynnlee missed her first week of school but hopes to return for her junior year next week.
Meanwhile, the Landis Pool has been closed for maintenance since Monday’s storm, during which another lightning bolt was believed to have fried a pool pump, according to staff.