Follow Us

Fowler Associates Labs



Static Fire Stories Articles & Technical Papers Current News

Massive Lightning Strike Kills SC Woman and Her Dogs
Norma Jean Fowler
January 25, 1966 - August 22, 2006

by: Steve Fowler - August 23, 2006

A 40-year-old woman, Norma Jean Fowler, and four of her dogs were killed after lightning struck a tree in the backyard of her Spartanburg County, South Carolina home. She shared the house with her mother and daughter. (shown recently with her daughter, Victoria, in the above photo)

Norma Jean (as her family called her) went outside a little before 3 p.m. to care for her dogs just as the early afternoon severe thunderstorm approached the area. The family kept at least nine dogs in the backyard of their home in Lyman, located at 102 Vernon Street. The four dogs which died were chained to various objects under the tree. The dogs which survived were puppies. They survived by huddling inside a plastic dog house during the rain and thunder.

The lightning struck the tallest tree in the backyard and apparently traveled down the root system before reaching the dogs. Each dog that was killed was under the tree and standing over the root system as well as chained. The current traveling through the tree's roots most likely caused the dogs to be killed. Norma Jean was thought to be standing at the base of the tree touching one of the dogs. She was found by her mother lying across one of the dogs nearest the tree base. Each dog that died was chained to a different tree. The lightning current might have traveled through Norma Jeans arms and legs to reach the dog she was touching.

Two of the four dogs were killed near the base of the tree and near Norma Jean. The other two dogs were at least 25 feet from the base of the tree. This indicated the extreme energy of the lightning bolt and how far it reached out through the tree roots. The distance from each of the two dogs near the outside of the tree root system was over 50 feet.


Customers and employees of a local restaurant ( Gail's) located near the home heard the thunderclap that followed the fatal lighting strike. It was describe as "three big, loud booms." None of them could have possibly imagined what had just happened. The tree which was struck is shown in the photo behind Gail's Restaurant.

Norma Jean's mother found her on the ground badly burned and in cardiac arrest. She receive burns to her fingers trying to put out the fire that was still burning Norma Jean's shirt.

Emergency responders performed CPR on Norma Jean for five to ten minutes while waiting on an ambulance, but it was not enough to save her. She most likely received such a severe shock that CPR would not have been effective under any circumstances.

Vicky Fowler, Norma Jeans sister, said she lost her life trying to care for the animals that she loved. Norma Jean died exactly 9 years to the day after her bother died by being struck by a train under suspicious circumstances.


Up to 100 people a year in the USA lose their lives to lightning. We have written many articles on lightning victims. Visit our web page on lightning for more information:

One very odd twist of fate to this story may be in another lightning strike nearwhere Norma Jean waskilled. In a small community called Fairmont on August 11, 1895, members of the Fowler family were killed in a lightning strike. Fairmont as a textile village is long gone. But the memory still exists there of the summer night that devastated the small community. The tragedy so affected the little village that they built a small monument to the two victims who dies quickly. Their names were Sarah and William Fowler - my great aunt and uncle.

Today, the grave is in disrepair at the old Methodist Church in Fairmont. It rests besides the graves of some of the textile magnates of that era - also in disrepair. The local children for many years have told stories of the dead children haunting the grave site. Locals walk around the grave and say that you can still hear them call out.



The ESD Journal is not affiliated with any trade organization, Association or Society

ESD Journal & are Trademarks of Fowler Associates, Inc. - All Rights Reserved

The content & Look of the ESD Journal & are Copyrighted by Fowler Associates, Inc. - All Rights Reserved Copyright 2011

The YouTube name and logo are copyright of YouTube, LLC.