The lightning that struck an Ellicott City house last week sounded like cannon fire and was so powerful that it blew chimney bricks 100 feet away.
The lightning Thursday night also caused a two-alarm fire at Bill and Rayna Moleton's five-bedroom house in the 12100 block of Willowind Court. It was their dream home, but they're hoping to rebuild.
"We lost everything on the second floor and in the attic," said Mrs. Moleton. "One minute I was on top of the world, looking forward to going out to dinner, and the next, my whole life changed."
The 6:12 p.m. fire destroyed the roof and caused more than $100,000 in damage to the second floor and throughout the house. About 75 firefighters from eight stations responded.
Fire officials estimate total damage at $450,000.
The Moletons say they are lucky no one was hurt. Mrs. Moleton was in the first-floor family room, and her 17-year-old son, Jason, was about to go upstairs to his room when they heard a loud bang, like a huge cannon discharging, Mrs. Moleton said.
"The hair on my arm stood up," she said. "The whole room had a glow. I saw debris rolling down from the roof."
"The lightning hit the chimney and practically blew out the top part of the chimney," said neighbor Dolores Bode, who looked out the window when she heard the blast. "The fire just traveled that roofline like an ocean wave. It happened so quickly and so devastating that you couldn't help but cry."
Mrs. Moleton, 46, said she ran out of the house to survey the damage and then called 911. She and her son drove to the foot of their long driveway to their mailbox, where they met Mr. Moleton, returning home from work. Their daughter, Denise, 20, was at college at West Virginia University.
The family praised the efforts of the county Fire Department, which rescued Mrs. Moleton's needlework tapestry.
"They did a wonderful job," said Mr. Moleton, 46.
At one point, firefighters had to refill with water from a nearby pond.
"I can't praise them enough, because they worked feverishly," said Mrs. Bode. "You could see they were giving 110 percent to put the fire out."