Lightning causes outages

PARKERSBURG – A fire that destroyed a house on Wyndemere Drive was the most visible and destructive but not the only effect of pop-up thunderstorms that struck the area Tuesday.

More storms are anticipated today, but Andrew Beavers, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, doesn’t anticipate major problems.

“Of course it’s always possible, but right now we’re not looking at any severe-type stuff,” he said.

A flash flood watch is in effect until 6 p.m. today.

Lightning strikes around 4 p.m. Tuesday caused hundreds of MonPower customers in Wood County to lose power, said Greg Hefner, external affairs manager with First Energy, of which MonPower is a part.

“We had approximately 460 customers out of power primarily in the Rockport, Mineral Wells and east Parkersburg area, although we did have some scattered outages throughout the county,” he said.

“We made significant strides getting that 460 number down pretty quickly by 6, 7 p.m.,” Hefner said, adding that some crews had to work through the night to get all customers restored.

An approximately 45-minute outage Wednesday morning in the Gihon Road-Rayon Drive area of south Parkersburg was caused by an animal getting into a facility, not the weather, Hefner said.

Parkersburg resident Jim Romine said a large tree behind his 15th Avenue home was split three-quarters of the way down by a bolt of lightning between 4:15 and 4:25 p.m. Tuesday. He had come home to let his dogs out before the rain arrived.

“And then – ka-boom! – that thing hit the big locust tree,” Romine said. “I felt the static electricity go clear to my fingers from my feet. I’m just glad I wasn’t closer to the tree.”

The tree was still standing Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s split in two where you can stick your hand through it,” Romine said.

The pop-up thunderstorms Tuesday were caused by hot, humid conditions that persisted through Wednesday, Beavers said. A cold front moving south from the Cleveland area could cause additional storms today, when there’s a 60 percent chance of rain.

Beavers said today’s precipitation is likely to be heavy, with some lightning and possibly heavy wind gusts, but nothing to suggest a great deal of destructive potential. According to the weather service, heavy or prolonged rain from slower moving systems Wednesday night and today could cause flash flooding on small streams and creeks.