LYNN — It was quite a scare for Julia Mezias, 20, when a tree was struck by lightning and fell on top of her car, shattering her back windshield as she was driving on Western Avenue Wednesday evening.
Mezias was headed to pick up a co-worker at one of her jobs when the storm abruptly changed her plans.
The Lynn resident said she was waiting at a red light across from Stop & Shop. When it turned green, she heard something shake, looked over and saw leaves to the right of her 2007 Toyota Camry.
At first, she thought it was only a heavy branch that hit the trunk of her car, but when she looked over, she saw leaves coming into the back of her car and glass covering the back seat.
It was then that she saw a tree covering the street and after being pulled out of the car by a nurse driving another car nearby, she was shocked to see it, along with wires, had fallen on top of her car.
“Really? Really?” Mezias said of what was running through her mind at the time. “The first thing I did was just go on Snapchat. I’m like really? Today of all days? I had to be somewhere.”
According to what a bystander told Mezias, the tree was hit by lightning at three different angles, splitting it into three pieces. The bigger part fell on top of her car, she said.
“I didn’t see (the lightning),” Mezias said. “The thing is: it felt like a mini-earthquake, but it could have just been the vibration from the tree.”
Andy Martinez, 21, of Lynn, was driving behind Mezias and was horrified to see the tree fall down on top of his friend’s car. One of the branches fell on his car, but it was otherwise unscathed.
“I freaked out, honestly — not going to lie,” Martinez said. “Just because I know it had hit me and she was right in front of me, so obviously the whole tree fell on her. I just backed up my car. I ran to her. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to turn off the car or have her get out, so I was in complete shock.”
Martinez said he was concerned Mezias might step on the electrical wires while it was raining, but his panic finally subsided when the nurse was able to get her out of the car safely.
Martin and Lisa Walfield surveyed the damage outside of their 490 Western Ave. home following the lightning strike, and explained they had called City Hall about two years ago because they were concerned about the poor condition of the tree. It was rotted before it came down, the couple said.
“It was hollowed out,” Lisa said. “We called someone in case it was bugs that were killing it. They said it was healthy enough to stay.”
Usually, Martin’s work van would have been parked on the street in front of their house where the tree came down around 4 p.m. But luckily for them, it was in the shop being repaired on Wednesday.
“It’s on the way out, so it would have been a dagger to it,” Martin said.
The incident caused a traffic jam on Western Avenue, between Franklin and Washington streets while crews worked to clear downed wires. Drivers crowded into the Stop & Shop parking lot to get around the tree that was blocking the road.
The intense rain and lightning also led a Lynn Fire Department response to a lightning strike at 60 Child St. where responding firefighters initially saw smoke. A house was struck by lightning at 278 Western Ave., but there was no fire, according to Lynn Fire Capt. Joseph Zukas.
Police, firefighters and public works crews in Lynn and surrounding communities grappled with flooding quickly inundating streets, including Chestnut and Jefferson streets where Lynn resident Fred Votta reported the intersection impassable.
“Water was going up to hoods of cars,” he said.
The deluge trapped a driver in a car on Bennett Avenue, according to a Saugus Fire transmission at 5 p.m., and downed trees at locations including Basse Circle in Lynn, Auburndale Road in Marblehead, and Goodridge Street in Lynn.
Swampscott Public Works Director/Assistant Town Administrator for Operations Gino Cresta reported trees down at Eastman Avenue and Blodgett Avenue with a large tree limb down on Elmwood Avenue.
“The one on Eastman is the worst. It’s leaning on a corner of the house,” Cresta said.
Firefighters responded to Yankee Custom Auto on Hawkes Street in Saugus for a reported electrical fire and cleared the scene after investigating. Fire Chief Michael Newbury said the storm knocked out power to a nearby trailer park.