Cows lay under a tree in East Texas after a lightning strike struck a tree and killed them Sunday night. Ashley Anderson Facebook
Cows lay under a tree in East Texas after a lightning strike struck a tree and killed them Sunday night. Ashley Anderson Facebook

Texas

Report: 19 cows killed in lightning strike in East Texas

August 30, 2016 12:32 PM

UPDATED August 30, 2016 04:40 PM

Call it a freak of nature: Lightning struck a tree in a pasture in East Texas and electrocuted 19 head of cattle, witnesses told KLTV 7 in Tyler.

The cows had sought refuge from a storm Sunday night under the tree on land north of Hallsville in Harrison County between Longview and Marshall.

“All of a sudden, a lightning bolt came down and the cows just fell, in the blink of an eye,” witness Victor Benson told KLTV. “And it was over.”

Some of the cows got up and stumbled away, he said. The rest just lay there, about a third of the herd in that lot of the pasture. Benson said he called the owners, the Anderson family.

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“It’s not something you see everyday,” Ashley Anderson told the station. In fact, she said her husband, who has worked around cattle his whole life, has never seen anything like it.

“It’s just kind of surreal to see it,” she said.

Even more surreal, just Friday more than 300 reindeer were electrocuted by lightning on a mountain plateau in southern Norway. A TV2 video of the scene shows a vast hillside covered with reindeer.

“Individual animals do from time to time get killed by lightning, and there are incidents where sheep have been killed in groups of 10 or even 20,” Kjartan Knutsen of the Norwegian Environment Agency told The New York Times, “but we have never seen anything like this.”

The deadliest lightning strike ever -- 323 reindeer. (Previous known record was 68 cows.) By @KarinBrulliard https://t.co/DVQX4p6ygG

— Laura Helmuth (@laurahelmuth) August 29, 2016

The scale is what’s striking. “It’s just a freak thing,” Anderson said of the incident in East Texas.

But apparently it’s not uncommon:

Lightning strike kills 17 cows and calves - https://t.co/encT2DPV9T pic.twitter.com/DDo0ireYDH

— WSYX ABC 6 (@wsyx6) July 7, 2016

Single lightning strike kills 21 cowshttps://t.co/kq7ivNaFzs pic.twitter.com/K0aeNe2Rfl

— CBS4Local (@CBS4Local) June 1, 2016

The Andersons told KLTV that the cows were removed from the pasture after the storm Sunday and given to people for meat.

Tom Uhler: 817-390-7832, @tomuh

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