Lightning strike ignites tree near Worthington

“It is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”

A lightning bolt ignited the inside of a tree in rural Worthington Friday, March 31, 2023.
A lightning bolt ignited the inside of a tree in rural Worthington Friday, March 31, 2023.
Pat Shorter / Worthington Fire Department

WORTHINGTON — A bolt of lightning ignited a massive cottonwood tree early Friday morning, burning the tree from the inside out, all the way from top to bottom.

“We do have lightning strikes to trees once in a while, but not to the extent that this one was,” said Worthington Fire Chief Pat Shorter. “It is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Initially, firefighters sprayed water on the tree’s exterior, as well as through one of the holes burned in the top of the tree, which extinguished the fire on the outside as the interior continued to burn.

“We doused it as much as we could and I called the (Nobles County) Highway Department, and they brought out some barricades,” Shorter said. They barricaded the road, in case the tree or any part of it fell over on its own, and later, Paul Kepka brought in an excavator and a skid loader to knock the tree over and finish off the fire for good. Worthington Township also assisted at the scene.

“It was likely a rotten tree, probably a hundred years old,” Shorter said. “There was a five-foot diameter base on the thing.”


A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Phone: (507) 376-7319
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