Lightning destroys tree at Wichita Falls Country Club

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - After the storms Friday morning moved out, Thomas Billick, the Head Golf Professional at the Wichita Falls Country Club, found a tree completely destroyed by lightning.

"Obviously we had a great sized storm come through the area in the early morning hours," Billick said.

The grounds crew were preparing the course for the day when they came across a tree completely shredded with debris everywhere.

"This was pretty significant so they had kind of all hands on deck, so to speak, to clean it up," Billick said.

This time the storm happened before the first tee time of 7:30 in the morning, but that is not always the case.

"Lightning safety is a huge responsibility of those of us that work in the golf operation here," Billick said.

Billick said they have evacuation plans ready.

"When lightning is within 8 to 10 miles of this location we will sound loud horns to get everyone off the golf course," Billick said.

They keep track of who is on the course, and who is without a cart. Workers personally go pick them up. The course is 140 acres. A lot of open ground where lightning is very dangerous.

"It's not only the lightning strike itself but also the amount of debris that gets thrown around," Billick said.

He said 20 to 30-pound chunks of the log were thrown about 100 yards. Proving an isolated tree is the last place you want to take cover during a lightning storm.

"It just goes to show the power of storms," Billick said.

So far only one person has died from lightning this year. In 2016 there were 38 lightning-related deaths. Texas comes in second to Florida in lightning death's the past 10 years.

There is no safe place outside when you hear thunder.

"Being weather aware is very important for any outdoor activity you do, especially being on a golf course because you can be so far from cover," Billick said.

The crew had the tree cleaned up by 10:00 a.m. Friday morning. Billick also said this was not a strategically placed tree for the course, so it does not affect play on the course.

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