Man visiting wife's grave killed by lightning in city 79,000 customers lose power in storm

May 13, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A 39-year-old man visiting his wife's grave at a Baltimore cemetery was struck and killed by lightning in yesterday's storm, which brought 5,000 lightning strikes and wind gusts of more than 60 mph, and knocked out power to 79,000 homes.

Killed shortly before 7 p.m. was Bobby J. Lowe of the 4400 block of Alan Drive in Arbutus, who ran for shelter under a tree at Loudon Park Cemetery in Southwest Baltimore with his 8-year-old son, said Sam Ringgold, a police spokesman.

A lightning bolt struck the tree -- splitting it down the middle -- and hit Mr. Lowe, "killing him within moments," Mr. Ringgold said.

The boy, whose name was not available, was not injured and ran to the cemetery office to get help and police were notified. The boy was placed with an aunt, Mr. Ringgold said. Mr. Lowe was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

Peggy Mulloy, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman, said about 5,000 lightning strikes were recorded in the Baltimore area, many of which struck trees, power lines and transformers.

She said about 79,000 homes were left without power at the peak of the storm. About 33,400 had their power restored by 11 p.m. Most of the other homes would have service restored by early today, she said.

Most of the power outages occurred in Anne Arundel County, with 31,767, Ms. Mulloy said.

"Most of the outages were in Carroll [about 4:45 p.m.] and Baltimore County, then all of a sudden, boom, it hit in the southern end [about 8 p.m.]," Ms. Mulloy said. "The second blast came as a surprise."

In Baltimore County, 25,300 homes lost power; in Howard County, 6,461; Baltimore City, 10,015; Carroll County, 4,715; and Harford County, 791.

Potomac Edison Power Co. officials reported 300 to 400 customers lost power in Frederick County.

By 2:30 a.m. today, power was restored to all the customers, said a spokesman for the utility.

Potomac Electric Power Co. reported outages affecting 31,000 customers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Officials said about 71,000 customers lost power in Washington and nearby areas.

Other problems included:

* In Talbot County, two people were rescued -- and one treated for hypothermia -- after small sailboats they were in capsized on Miles River, said St. Michaels Fire Chief John Watts. The two boats were among 15 competing in a weekly regatta.

* In Queen Anne's County, winds ripped the roofs from three condominiums at Kangaroo Beach on Thompson Creek, officials said. No one was injured but the homes and their contents were water-damaged.

* In Delaware, Andrew Lee Allen, 25, was killed when he was struck and killed by lightning while standing in the front yard of his home three miles west of Seaford, state police said. He died at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 9:35 p.m.

The violent storms were caused by a cold front bumping up against hot, humid air that had been stalled in the region for a week, said Bob Melrose, a National Weather Service forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum.

The Weather Service measured 1.27 inches of rain at BWI.

"As the cold front moved through the area, it just started cooling down," he said, adding the mercury in Baltimore fell from 84 degrees at 5 p.m. to 64 degrees two hours later.

LIGHTNING PROTECTION

* Avoid using telephone except in an emergency.

* If you are outside, avoid natural lightning rods such as isolated tall trees and sheds, and don't become the tallest object yourself PTC by standing on hilltops, beaches or in open fields or a small boat.

* Get off tractors, motor- cycles, bikes and golf carts, and put down golf clubs. Stay away from clotheslines, wire fences, metal pipes, rails or anything that could conduct electricity to you.

* In a forest, go to a low ravine or valley, but be alert for flash floods.

* If you are isolated in a level field and feel your hair stand on end -- indicating lightning is about to strike -- bend forward and place your hands on your knees. Do not lie flat on the ground.

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