A COUPLE has described the terrifying moment a bolt of lightning struck their family home forcing them to flee to safety.

Storm Gareth has brought gale force winds and torrential rain to Cumbria this week, prompting flooding fears and causing damage.

But the terror of the storm became a reality for one family near Carlisle yesterday morning when lightning hit their house, causing damage to the roof and to rooms inside.

At about 2am lightning hit the chimney of Amanda and Phil Glencross’ home in Cotehill, leaving their family-of-four fearing for their lives.

The homeowner, Amanda Glencross, 43, said: “I have seen fork lightning, lightning that lights up the sky, but it was literally like someone had flashed a camera flash into my eyes, it was so bright.”

Amanda, 43, said: “My husband had fallen asleep on the couch. I keep thinking back, what if the kids had been downstairs? What if Phil had been on the other couch? I just can’t bare to think about it.”

The bolt of lightning obliterated the chimney and blew the electrics from the walls.

Phil, 41, said: “I was terrified, I was nodding off on the couch when it went bang.”

Amanda’s young son had come in to her bedroom, frightened due to the storm. She added: “There was a rumble of thunder, at this point I was cuddling him [her son] in bed, he was so scared, and the next thing there was a bang.

“It was like a bomb had hit the house, it was absolutely horrendous.

“We jumped up, my little girl came flying through, we were all just screaming.”

The destruction left a gaping hole in the roof, letting rain pour in and the gas fire in the living room was blown from the wall across the room.

Mrs Glencross continued: “It was like something you see on the TV, that happens somewhere else. Phil [who has served in the armed forces] said he had never been as scared as that night in his entire life. It was the scariest thing to ever happen.”

Living in America and experiencing some of their electric storms, Mrs Glencross said there was no comparison and Storm Gareth was worse.

Crews from Carlisle East and Carlisle West fire stations were called out at about 2.30am.

A spokesman for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said: “It was a joint chimney between two houses which was struck. It smashed the chimney to pieces and put some bits through the roof.”

“It travelled down the cables and blew some sockets and telephone points in both properties and blew one of the properties gas fires out onto the hearth. The gentleman was sleeping on the sofa at the time.”

He added that part of the chimney had come through the ceiling in a child’s bedroom but thankfully no one was injured in either home.

The terrifying night didn’t just frighten the Glencross family, Scott Mattinson, 23, lives in Shaddon Mill, next to Dixon’s Chimney, Carlisle, said: “It was hammering down with rain, then all of a sudden there was an almighty bang. Lightning hit the chimney, it was like a train was going past, but it was debris hammering down on the roof. I dived out of bed. It felt like an earthquake, I have never experienced anything like itin my life.”