It is unknown how lightning caused a water main break on Sherman Drive in Newton on Thursday morning.


It left Karen Farrell shaking her head that afternoon. The events of the morning left her shaking from head to toe.


"I saw a bright red flash of light," Farrell said.


She was at home and her husband was at the eye doctor. The bright red light and accompanying sound like a cannonade were heard by neighbors across the street.


"I heard a boom and glass started falling out," Farrell said. "I didn’t even know about the tree, yet."


The tree, one in her front yard, took the hit. Her first thought, she said, was not knowing who to call in the aftermath.


The impact was so loud, and so hard, that neighbors across the street were convinced it was at their house — until they saw the damage to the tree at Farrell’s home. Multiple neighbors heard the lightning strike and believed it was their home that took the damage.


"The impact made the pictures in our living room fall off the wall," neighbor Penny Dorado wrote in a text to The Kansan.


It struck fear into her elementary-age children.


It is unclear how lightning traveled down through the tree and into the water system, causing a water main across the street to burst.


"We are not sure how much damage there is at this point," said Erin McDaniel, public information officer for the city.


She told The Kansan this is the first time anyone at city hall can remember lightning damaging a buried water main. A crew was digging up the main to begin repairs on Thursday afternoon. According to the Newton Fire/EMS department, the damage was severe enough to affect water hydrants in the area.


"Our crew found a hole in the pipe 4 inches wide by 12 inches long," McDaniel told The Kansan on Thursday afternoon. "They have now turned water back on, flushed the system and are not seeing any more water surfacing. But just to be safe, they are not going to backfill the hole this evening. They will come back first thing in the morning to check for any additional leaks, due to the oddity of the break and not knowing for sure how the lightning affected the line."


The working theory in city hall is the lightning struck the tree, traveled into a water meter a few feet from the tree and then through piping to the main.


It is unclear what the cost of the water main repairs will be.