As local farmer James Warren examined his tobacco patch one day last week, he saw something in the middle of the burley that completely puzzled him.
There, in almost a perfect rectangle 18 plants long by eight rows wide were plants whose leaves were wilted yellow and brown with their stalks burnt and split at the top.
Warren, whose farm is on Bennett Road, hadn’t sprayed the crop in weeks which seemed to rule out chemical damage. He had walked through the patch the day before with all the plants seemingly healthy which would seem to eliminate disease as a cause.
“I don’t have any other explanation but lightning hit the patch,” he determined. “He had a storm with bad lightning come the night before.”
He saw no signs of where a lightning bolt had run into or along the ground, but he noticed the ends of leaves of plants adjacent to the damaged plants seemed seared.
Hardin County extension agent Matt Helm said lightning strikes on tobacco are rare but not unheard of.
“I’ve heard of it hitting in a tobacco patch and I’ve actually seen where it has struck soybean and corn fields,” Helm said. “In one soybean field, it struck in a circular pattern and stunted the plants.”
Helm, like Warren, didn’t observe any places on the ground dug out by lightning.
“I’ve been raising tobacco for over 60 years, but this is the first time I can remember lightning striking my tobacco,” Warren said.