Lightning strikes centered on Sierra High School about 2 p.m. Wednesday set off school alarms as well as car and truck alarms in the parking lot in a surprising spring fireworks display.
The school alarm system in the East Union High School attendance office shorted out with a power surge from the lightning at about 2:45, setting off classroom fire detectors all over the campus. Fire engines automatically responded to the multiple alarms finding no fire. All the rooms had to be checked by firefighters, however.
Manteca Police public information officer Jason Hensley was sitting in his patrol car outside the Boys and Girls Club on West Alameda Street when lightning struck near his black and white vehicle, sending his car “rocking and rolling” from another strike, he said.
A young teacher at a Manteca elementary school experienced a hit to her umbrella in the storm prompting two school district nurses responding to the campus. She was reportedly taken to the occupational medical services center at Kaiser Hospital where she was met by her husband.
School district officials said the woman seemed to be doing OK at the school site or an ambulance would have been called to transport her to the hospital.
The teacher was quoted as saying she was walking across the campus when lightning struck her umbrella and she felt it go through her body. She said her heart did not feel right – it was racing – and the roof of her mouth felt raw. The woman remembers dropping the umbrella and running to her classroom.
Detective Paul Carmona was also on the street during the storms telling fellow officers later that his unmarked pickup truck was also “rolling” from the lightning activity. Another detective said family members called saying they were alarmed by the rattling of windows during the electric storm.
Manteca Police School Resource Officer Eva Steele said she was outside the school buildings on the Sierra campus with school counselor Paul Bennett who mentors a hiking club at the school. Bennett was studying the cloud formations when they both witnessed the first strike.
“I haven’t seen weather like that since I was in Kansas,” Steele said. “It was pretty scary. It hit on the stadium or right behind it and then it hit the center of the parking lot setting off the school and car alarms.”
There were other reports of lightning hitting the gym and the quad in the center of the campus along with hail. Steele said there were numerous lightning flashes all over and beyond the campus as well.
The school officer credited Principal Steve Clark for locking the school down and holding the students for 10 to 15 minutes past their normal release time. She said the kids were pretty upset when they heard they couldn’t go home, but then another lighting strike hit nearby and they realized how serious and dangerous the situation was becoming for them to go out to their cars.
They all quieted down and were more agreeable to the principal’s mandate, she added. “It was a nice joint effort by the administrators and the teachers to keep the kids safe,” she noted.
Steele also acknowledged the patience exhibited by parents who were already sitting in their cars and trucks waiting to pick up their students at the end of the school day. None of the parents seemed to be at all upset with the delay and they waited for the thunder and lightning storm to die down, she said.
The Manteca Animal Control Shelter on South Main Street at Wetmore Avenue had an influx of calls about loose animals frightened by the storm. There were also members of the community that had found animals on the street that they took to the shelter. Owners were calling the dog pound following the storm to see if their pets had been found by the shelter staff.
A Manteca Unified School District Health Services spokesman said the storm was extremely loud inside their modular office with the velocity of the rain and hail pounding down on the roof of the portable building.
The school district issued a warning to students caught in electrical storms, advising them to stay inside their vehicles – don’t get out and ground yourself by putting your feet on the ground. And don’t put yourself at a high point wherever you are during a thunder and lightning storm, they added.