Thirty-one Parkville residents were driven from their apartments early today when lightning struck the roof of the Ridge Garden apartments in the 2900 block of Conroy Court shortly after midnight.
Lightning also was blamed for a fire early today in a Cockeysville antiques shop owned by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, and her husband, William Bentley.
The Parkville fire displaced residents in 22 apartments, Baltimore County police said. No injuries were reported. The apartments were condemned due to fire, smoke and water damage.
"It's a sound that's indescribable," said Pat Staines, 38, who was in bed in her apartment when the lightning hit. "The power was out. I thought I was dreaming."
She said smoke detectors wired to the building's electrical supply did not work because the power had failed.
Residents of the apartment hit by lightning pounded on their neighbors' doors, alerting them to the fire.
Residents today said they were not being allowed to enter the building to recover belongings, which were being soaked by new rains. They also complained of inadequate police protection against looting.
Lynn Creamer, 29, said everything she owned was in the building, and her apartment was leaking because of holes punched in the roof by firefighters.
"I got a brass bed and everything," Creamer said. The lone police officer assigned to protect the place "didn't seem like he was paying attention."
Nevertheless, residents were grateful to be alive. "This is something I read in the newspapers every night and you think to yourself, 'Those poor souls.' It's like a bad dream," said Staines. "The one thing is, God saved us. Material things can be replaced. People's lives can't."
The apartments are directly across Putty Hill Avenue from the Parkville police and fire stations.
Police said a resident of the apartment unit at 2902 Conroy Court went to the stations and reported his building had been hit by lightning.
When the first of several pieces of fire apparatus arrived on the scene, the roof and parts of the third floor were burning, said a Fire Department dispatcher.
The fire was declared under control at 3:09 a.m.
In Cockeysville, an antiques shop in the 10800 block of York Road received extensive damage when it was hit by lightning that ignited a fire in the basement.
The shop, in the former Stebbins-Anderson hardware store, is owned by the Bentleys.
Police said neighbors smelled smoke around 2:30 a.m. and called the fire department. The fire went to two alarms and was declared under control at 3:12 a.m.