Woman found dead on River Place trail was struck by lightning

The Travis County Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that lightning is what caused the death of a woman hiking along River Place Trail on Sunday.

Michelle Ann Wolfe was 37.

"It's weird to talk about her in past tense. She was fierce, very tenacious, loved hard work," said friend Stephanie Taylor Twohey.

Stephanie Taylor Twohey first met Michelle Wolfe when she walked into her East Austin gym.

"She was my athlete first and became my friend over the two years that I knew her," said Stephanie. Stephanie last saw Michelle on Saturday. The two worked out and talked about hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Michelle loved the outdoors.

"I think that's where she seemed happiest. Just being outside. Being from the Pacific Northwest she loved mountains, cold weather, the greens and the blues," said Stephanie.

Tuesday, Stephanie would learn that her friend was electrocuted either by a direct lightning strike or indirectly as it came off a tree while hiking River Place Trail in West Travis County.

Travis County deputies say a runner found Michelle's body at 5:30 Sunday evening. There was a downed tree limb nearby and objects in the immediate area were singed.

"It happens one in a million. So it's just so stunning to get that kind of news 'cause you, because I just can't rationally wrap my mind around the idea that my friend is gone and she's gone because of a lightning strike." said Stephanie.

According to the National Weather Service, there have been 36 lightning strike deaths this year.

That's the highest total since 2007. Wolfe marks the second death in Texas for 2016.

The last lightning strike death in Travis County was in 1996.

The loss for Stephanie and those who attend her gym is hard to take. Making the situation all the more tragic, Michelle just completed her Ph.D. at U.T. and was looking to move back to Seattle to be by her family. "I guess if i could find some grain of some comfort, she was where she loved to be. Outside and alone," said Stephanie.

Austin Travis County EMS has created a video that shows what to do if caught outside when a storm hits. Please take a moment to watch it here

A memorial for Michelle will be held at Grit Gym next week.