NBC 4 New York
Just eight days before the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, U.S. Olympic racewalker Maria Michta has a close encounter with lightning during Wednesday's storms. A bolt struck her family's house, knocking down power lines, then set her family's cars on fire. Greg Cergol caught up with Michta in Nesconset Thursday.
Lightning in Wednesday's storm struck the Long Island home of Olympian Maria Michta, who is days away from heading to London to compete in the race walk.
The lightning struck her house in Nesconset, hitting wires and setting fire to two cars, the family told NBC 4 New York.
"When you say fire, cars on fire, you never imagine the damage we saw," said Michta. "They were completely burned down, just to the core."
Michta was out training for her 20K race walk when two power lines fell in her front yard. Her sisters and mother were inside the house.
"It sounded like a mini-bomb went off," said her sister Katie. "I've never heard anything loud like that before."
As fire erupted on the front lawn, the family fled.
The flames never reached the house but it destroyed the family's van and car, all as firefighters looked on helplessly. They were unable to take action until LIPA crews shut off power, and it took more than an hour for them to respond.
"Minutes mattered in this case," said Sue Michta, who believes the family's vehicles could have been saved if the utility's crews had responded more quickly.
In a statement, a LIPA spokeswoman said, "We have asked our contractor National Grid to immediately look into the incident and report back to LIPA to make sure both the National Grid and the fire department followed the proper procedures."
Michta's family, which has been working hard to raise money to defray the cost of her trip to London, is now worried about the added expense of replacing two vehicles, they said.
But the unexpectedevent shouldn't affect Maria's plans, who will be leaving for London next week.
"Hopefully the next time you see me on TV, it will be in the opening ceremony with my gear on," she said, smiling.
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