Lightning strikes damaged a home and warehouse as severe thunderstorms rolled through Bartholomew County, resulting in power outages affecting more than 2,000 customers.
Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. initially announced a two-hour delay Wednesday morning because of a widespread power outage through the school district in northeastern Bartholomew County, but canceled classes for the day after Duke Energy said it was unlikely that power could be restored to the Hope area before 11 a.m.
The Hope-based school district was not the only district to call off classes. Seymour Community Schools also closed school due to a power outage affecting at least 7,000 customers in Jackson County, said Chip Orben, Duke Energy spokesman.
Besides weather impacts, Hope’s outage issues included a malfunction at a substation, where crews worked to reroute power and make repairs, Orben said.
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Duke Energy reported 1,410 customers without power Wednesday morning in Bartholomew County, including about 1,000 in the Hope area. However, power was restored to most Duke customers in Hope by 11:30 a.m., Orben said.
Bartholomew County REMC reported 982 customers in Bartholomew County without power early Wednesday, most of them in Hawcreek Township. By mid-afternoon, however, the REMC outage total in Bartholomew County was reduced to 83, all in Harrison Township in western Bartholomew County.
Columbus firefighters dealt with fires caused by lightning strikes starting Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning.
They were called to 304 Sunset Drive at 7:38 a.m. Wednesday after a homeowner discovered a lightning strike.
Homeowner Kristy Garvey told firefighters she saw lightning from the storm followed by a clap of thunder and the home’s lights had flickered, and initially thought the home’s roof had been hit. After taking her daughter to school at about 7:15 a.m., she returned home and smelled smoke in the garage, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.
Garvey saw burn marks on a wall near a device that regulates the home’s electric dog fence control panel that was mounted on the garage’s exterior wall, Wilson said. Firefighters removed that device and used a therma- imaging camera to determine if fire was within the walls, but couldn’t find any evidence that the home was on fire, Wilson said. The device had been plugged into an interior wall receptacle in the garage, and had been blown off the wall, Wilson said.
Firefighters also found evidence of a lightning strike on the family’s wooden deck and on the ground behind the home, where deck fencing and a post was damaged, Wilson said. Firefighters found a bowl-shaped crater that contained a portion of the hidden electrical fence, believed to have been damaged by lightning, he said.
Some of the home’s outlets were not functioning after the lightning strike and breakers had tripped in the home’s circuit box, Wilson said.
Firefighters did not have a damage estimate to the home’s electrical system but advised the homeowners to contact a licensed electrician for repairs before powering up the tripped circuit breakers, Wilson said. Damage to the deck was estimated at less than $500.
In an earlier fire believed to have been caused by lightning, Columbus firefighters were called to Columbus Warehouse & Cartage Inc., 4411 Long Road, at 3:02 p.m. Tuesday after an employee smelled smoke. Firefighters found light smoke coming from the roof when they arrived.
Four employees in the warehouse evacuated, Wilson said. While firefighters searched the inside of the warehouse, other firefighters used the department’s aerial ladder truck to inspect the roof.
Firefighters opened up the roof using axes and chainsaws and learned a second tin roof was hidden below the visible roof, which slowed their access to insulation which was on fire, Wilson said. Firefighters cut opening in the tin and doused burning insulation and roof decking with water as they worked.
The firefighters inside the structure learned the roof area was above an area that contained a significant number of business documents, and they began salvaging boxes of documents, moving them to a safe area, Wilson said.
The fire was believed to have started in an overhead door in the warehouse, which employees attempted to put out with a dry-powder fire extinguisher, Wilson said. The fire re-ignited and an employee used a garden hose to try to put it out, but the fire restarted again, Wilson said.
Firefighters believe the fire in the overhead door was caused by a lightning strike because the electrical service components to the door were intact.
The warehouse had damage in about a 20-foot by 20-foot section of the roof, Wilson said. Firefighters said there was smoke and water damage throughout the building, with structure damage estimated at $10,000 and damage to contents at $5,000, Wilson said. No injuries were reported.
Straight-line wind damage
In southeast Jennings County, investigators are determining whether a tornado or straight-line winds blew the roof off a house Wednesday morning.Damage to the one-story brick residence, located northeast of Commiskey at 6970 S. Base Road, was first reported at 6:10 a.m., Lovett Township firefighter Steven Fleek said.
Homeowner Thomas Shepherd has a wife and child, but he was the only one home when the damage took place, Lovett Township firefighter James Malcomb said.
After the winds began to sound threatening, Shepherd took shelter in the basement of the house near the intersection of Jennings County Roads 700S and 1100E before the roof blew off, the firefighter said. Shepherd was not injured, Fleek said.
Evidence of some twisted debris found nearby, where a roof was also blown off an old barn along County Road 600S, indicates the damage could have been caused by a combination of straight-line winds and a tornado, Malcomb said.
Shelter in the storm
A ColumBUS transit bus shelter was blown over during the thunderstorm and city workers were picking up the glass pieces from the structure Wednesday morning.Columbus Transit Coordinator Cindy Setser said the bus shelter was at least a decade old and its value at current rates is unknown. Current prices for bus shelters can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000, she said.
The shelters are bolted into concrete and designed to withstand storms, so having one blow over in a thunderstorm is “new to us,” Setser said.
Reporter Mark Webber contributed to this story.