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Kaitlin Hagadone is grateful for her luck.

On July 1, the Columbia Falls woman was driving home alone from work along Half Moon Road when lightning struck a large larch tree along the side of the road.

“I saw the lightning strike the tree and it exploded,” she said. Instinctively, she steered her 2006 Saturn Ion into the other lane.

That was the margin needed to save her life.

A piece of the tree, more than three meters long, broke through the windshield, pierced the passenger seat, pierced the back seat between the child seats and penetrated two meters into the trunk.

Luckily, no car was coming towards her, otherwise there would have been a head-on collision.

“I just felt the car shaking and skidding,” she said.

She turned her head away from the broken glass. The car has a standard transmission and the tree narrowly missed her hand as she shifted gears. She was unhurt but definitely shaken.

Passersby stopped to see if she was okay.

Hagadone is a construction equipment operator at FH Stoltze Land and Lumber. When she got home from work, she said she saw flashes here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary.

She said she was glad no one from her family was in the car. She has two young children and the tree was between the car seats. Her husband, Ty Cowan, normally drives, and if he had been driving and she had been in the passenger seat … well, no one wants to think about that.

The car is wrecked, but after filling out an accident report with the Montana Highway Patrol, she was allowed to drive it home.

“It’s a shame,” she said. She really liked the little car. It ran well and was reliable. Now she’s driving the family’s diesel pickup until she finds something else.

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