Lightning sparks fires; heavy rains flood roads



Two firefighters suffered minor injuries battling a blaze in Austintown.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
Many Mahoning and Shenango valley communities face cleanups today after torrential rains caused flooding and other damage Monday.
Across Trumbull County, wind and lightning also knocked down numerous trees and caused some vehicle accidents.
Police reported minimal storm damage in Youngstown. But there was storm damage and flooding in parts of Boardman, Austintown and Campbell.
Mercer County was under a tornado warning at one point.
Three office workers at the Altobelli Real Estate office on Vienna Avenue in Niles were jolted from their desks in the afternoon when they heard what sounded like an explosion.
Secretary Marie Furlong said the blast, later understood to be a lightning strike, caused her computer to quit and sent an electrical surge through her fingers. A short time later, a man drove up in his car and walked into the office.
"He said. "Your roof is on fire. You have to get out," said Debbie Barber, a Realtor who was also in the office.
"Thank God for that man," she said. "We got in our cars, and the flames were just pouring out," she said of a cupola-shaped attic and office area in the front corner of the building.
None of the three women required medical treatment. Niles firefighters were on the scene right away to put out the fire, Barber said.
Falling trees
Howland Fire Chief George Brown said among the trees that fell in the township was one that hit a house at 7786 Castle Rock Drive. A branch caused extensive damage, Brown said.
"The man said he was looking out the window and saw the tree limb come down into the house," Brown said.
Two trees fell along North River Road, blocking it for a time. Not far from there, a three-axle dump truck overturned on Commonwealth Avenue. Brown said the truck appeared to have overturned because it slipped off the side of the road.
Other trees blocked Howland-Wilson and Rolling Meadows Drive and knocked down wires on Reeves Road, Brown said.
Cortland Service Director Donald Wittman said the large amount of rainfall associated with the storm caused flooding in places across the city. These included Laura Lane, where storm sewer repairs had been made last year, and neighboring Beechwood Drive.
Leslie Bedech, a supervisor at the Trumbull 911 Center, said reports of flooded roads were received from Champion, Mecca, Brookfield and Howland. She said the dispatch center had reports of about 10 trees down.
In Youngstown, a tree came down on Shawnee Trail on the West Side, pulling down several power lines. Wires were also downed on the corner of Michael Drive and Bears Den Road.
Lightning struck the chimney of a house at 8120 Hunting Valley Drive, Boardman, sending bricks scattering through the side yard. The lightning then traveled through the attic to the other side of the house where fire ignited. Firefighters removed insulation to douse the flames.
Fire Chief James Dorman said that there was no damage in the middle of the house. The Monday afternoon fire caused damage to a bedroom, sitting room and walk-in closet of the house in the Huntington Woods development between U.S. Route 224 and Tippecanoe Road. No one was home at the time, and no injuries were reported.
Flooding repeat
Austintown Township Trustee David Ditzler said flooding was not as bad as the heavy rain that occurred on June 22. Still, the township office was bombarded with phone calls all afternoon as residents complained of flooding to their homes and roads.
Ditzler, Trustee Lisa Oles and Administrator Michael Dockry spent most of the afternoon surveying damage. There was a lot of flooding on North Wickliffe Circle, North Beverly Avenue and Marcia Drive, Oles said.
Residents from Marcia Drive attended Monday's trustees meeting looking for solutions to their flooding problems. Residents of Kirk Road and Fitch Boulevard also said there were was major flooding on their streets, with cars stalling and driveways flooded over.
Fire Chief Andy Frost said lightning caused fires at homes on Atlanta Avenue and Lancaster Drive. In the Atlanta fire, Frost said, one firefighter burned his hand and another fell through an attic; they had minor injuries.
Campbell police said 12th Street was flooded in places, possibly caused by sewer backup. Wilson Avenue was partially flooded from Campbell to Struthers after the storm. Traffic was slowed and in some areas, debris flowed down the street.
Hail -- in July
Clark Jones, Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency operations manager, said Coitsville, Poland and Campbell had dime-sized hail and Austintown was hit hard with heavy rain in two storms, specifically along Mahoning Avenue, in areas hard hit by storms a few weeks ago.
In Sharon, Pa., an alert employee saw lightning strike the cupola at the historic Buhl Farm Casino. No one was injured, but a section of the cupola had been ripped apart by the severe weather, said Pat O'Mahony, park general manager.
A security system in the building was also damaged by the lightning when it hit about 2:20 p.m., he said. This was one of the most severe incidents that resulted in the early afternoon storm, which precipitated a tornado warning.
Tom Meyer, a Mercer County 911 supervisor, said there were no tornado sightings, but the warning was issued because conditions were favorable for a tornado.
He said the storm also caused two downed trees in Farrell and there was flooding on State Street and Connelly Boulevard in Sharon due to the storm and a water main break. Those roads were closed as workers fixed the water main, he said.

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