Lightning starts fires power out

June 17, 1994|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,Sun Staff Writer Contributing writer Ellie Baublitz contributed to this article.

The week's blazing hot temperatures gave way yesterday to an afternoon thunderstorm with high winds and lightning that damaged at least two Carroll homes.

Alexander Kelemen, who lives in the 2900 block of Lawndale Road in Finksburg, said his attic caught fire after lightning struck a pipe on his roof.

Mr. Kelemen, who was in his basement, grabbed a garden hose and extinguished the fire before engines arrived. But he said he was badly shaken.

"I came up into my attic and there was so much smoke," said Mr. Kelemen, a 68-year-old retiree. "I couldn't see."

Mr. Kelemen added that the damage to the attic and roof means it will take longer to complete his dream of restoring the house.

"I'm very frustrated," he said. "I just put a brand new roof on the house. I was planning to make a lot of improvements, and sell it. But now, I don't know."

His was not the only home damaged by the storm yesterday. Around 2:30 p.m., lightning struck Linda J. Shelton's garage in Dennings.

Winfield engines responded to the resulting fire, which destroyed the top floor of one of her two garages and left the lower floor severely damaged.

Ms. Shelton, 51, who has lived at the home on the 3100 block of Cardinal Drive for 15 years, said the family had wanted to build that garage adjacent to the house but had decided against it.

In recent years Ms. Shelton, who works the night shift at Montgomery General Hospital as a mental health counselor, said her husband had used the structure for storage and to keep hay for the family goat.

The storm, in fact, delayed response to the fire at the Sheltons. John Poole, chief of engine No. 142 in Winfield, said a New Windsor unit was halted by a fallen tree across a road.

County fire crews responded to two incidents of downed power wires between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. yesterday, one in New Windsor and one in Hampstead. Crews in southeast Carroll had responded to four weather-related fire calls between 5:20 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday, including two incidents of electric wires on fire, a tree fire and an electrical fire.

The dry conditions that had prevailed in northern Carroll until yesterday afternoon's storms contributed to a large woods fire off Leisters Church Road north of Westminster just after 6 a.m. Thursday.

Firefighters from Westminster, Reese, Hampstead, Manchester and Pleasant Valley battled the fire for about four hours, Emergency Operations Center officials reported.

Charles Franklin, a spokesman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., reported 4,100 homes without power scattered throughout the county after the storm rolled through at midafternoon yesterday. Some 16,000 outages were reported in Central Maryland.

Bill Cowden, Potomac Edison division manager for Frederick County, said the utility got reports of widely scattered power outages from all over its service area, which includes western portions of Carroll County and all of Frederick County.

The Emergency Operations Center received "unconfirmed" reports of a tornado in the Winfield area. After checking with the weather service, the center attributed the disturbance to high winds in the thunderstorm.

The Carroll County Department of Public Works reported only minor problems.

"We have reports of two trees down, one at Sams Creek Road and Dr. Stitely [Road] and one on Salem Bottom," Jay Nave, administrative assistant at the Carroll County Road Operations Bureau, said yesterday afternoon. "We have crews out there cleaning them up."

Richard Smith of the State Highway Administration in Westminster said three traffic lights went out during the storm: at Routes 97 and 32 in Westminster; Routes 26 and 27 in Taylorsville; and Route 31 at Uniontown Road in Westminster. He said SHA workers were also called upon to clear away a few fallen branches and trees.

Sgt. C. J. Stiles of the state police said she had reports of only "one or two trees" down as a result of the storm. State police also indicated they had seen no increase in the number of disabled cars along the roads as a result of the heat.

There were signs that Carroll residents were adapting well to the heat. M. J. Bangerd, coordinator of the 4 p.m. to midnight shift at Carroll County Hospital, said the hospital has not seen a heat-related case since temperatures soared into the 90s earlier this week.

"I think it's unusual that we haven't seen any cases," Ms. Bangerd said. "But maybe that's because people are gearing up for the heat better than in the past."

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