Alex Morales wasn’t home Monday afternoon when a lightning strike ripped a 4-by-4 foot hole through the roof of a townhouse he and his family share in Jupiter’s Abacoa neighborhood.
But his mother-in-law was.
Fortunately, she was in a different part of the three-story house when it happened.
Monday’s strike came in the midst of a strong line of storms that also dropped a funnel cloud along Southern Boulevard and caused injury to a man who was hit by lightning in Margate.
“She heard it, checked around, but didn’t really notice anything,” Morales said Wednesday.
It was only after Morales’ 15- and 19-year-old sons returned from the gym a short time later that the family realized there could be extensive damage.
“As they’re walking toward the house, they see there was smoke coming out of the roof,” said Morales, a Watson B. Duncan Middle School history teacher who also coaches baseball there and at Dwyer High School.
Neighbors as well as Morales’ kids called 911, which sent Palm Beach County Fire Rescue to the scene. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which was contained to the attic.
After the fire was extinguished, Morales went back into the home to assess the damage. He found it widespread, mostly because of water that was used to put out the fire.
“There was a lot of water,” Morales said.
The home, which Morales rents, is uninhabitable, so the family has moved in with Morales’ sister-in-law, who lives nearby. They hope to find another place to live while repairs are made to the house.
Morales said he has no idea how long that will take.
“That’s for the owners to determine,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage on the third floor. The second floor is damaged quite a bit from the water, from the hoses. They’ve just got to repair it. That’s up to them to repair. I think it’s going to take quite a bit.”
The other home connected to the unit in which Morales lived didn’t sustain nearly as much damage, and the owners already have moved back in, he said.
“They’re just trying to do the little things to get it back to normal,” he said.
The Duncan Middle School baseball team plans to organize assistance for the Morales family, according to a Facebook post.
Lightning strikes are fairly common during Florida thunderstorms and the state is tops in lightning-related deaths. It recorded five of the 16 deaths nationwide in 2017.
Last month, Maria Francisco Pascual of Lake Worth died after being struck by lightning while coordinating workers at a farm southwest of Boca Raton. Two other workers were injured.
Pascual’s death was the second in the state this year from lightning; the first was in April near Lake City.