Thunderstorm roars through city

June 23, 1997


Staff Writer

Summer announced its arrival Sunday with a bang - or a loud clap of thunder, to be exact.

In a fierce thunderstorm that swept Hagerstown for about 30 minutes about 1:45 p.m. - one day after the summer solstice on Saturday - 17 mph winds, heavy rains and lightning caused major disturbances for residents, businesses and police.

Washington County police dispatcher Jim Blevins said, in about 10 minutes, he received six storm-related fire alarm calls stemming from lightning strikes or power surges.

Lightning did, however, strike a branch of a 75-foot high cottonwood tree, causing it to topple onto the porch roof of a residence on 318 Summit Ave., owned by Gary Blair of Hagerstown.


Blair had called Danny McGuire, owner of McGuire Tree Service in Hagerstown, to remove the web of branches and dense foliage from his house after he discovered the thick branch resting on his splintered, dented roof.

"It poked a few holes in the roof," said McGuire, who wrapped the 150-year-old tree trunk with rope to prevent it from causing further damage.

"This is generally what happens in an electrical storm," Blevins said. "The common denominator in all this is the lightning."

Allegheny Power, which services the Hagerstown area, experienced power outages in Boonsboro and Williamsport throughout the day, said Midge Teathan, the company's team leader of corporate communications.

A tree hit a power line, cutting off electricity for 485 customers from 1:45 p.m. until about 7 p.m., Teathan said.

After the first complaint, company crews were alerted and rushed to the problem spot to remove branches, extricate the tree from the line and restore power, Teathan said. Releasing trees requires heavy equipment that takes time to operate, she added.

"We're not sure what the immediate cause was" for the tree to bump the power line, she said, "but it was a result of the storm. It could have been the force of the winds or the force of the water."

Although thunderstorms are more prevalent during the spring and summer seasons, when there are a mix of cold and warm fronts, the first day of summer on Saturday was hot, humid and bearing temperatures in the 90s, according to the National Weather Service.

Between today and Thursday, Hagerstown residents are in for mostly sunny, hot and humid weather, more reflective of Saturday's conditions than Sunday's, with temperatures ranging from the low to mid 90s, said meteorologist Dewey Walston, of the National Weather Service.

Walston said these numbers are typical of past summers.

"If it was 105 degrees, then we'd be talking about it," he said with a laugh, "but this is nothing too abnormal."

But he agreed that temperatures this week will be significantly higher than during the recent uncharacteristically cool spring.

Because of cool air blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean, the Tri-State region experienced a dominantly dry spring that brought temperatures lower than average years, Walston said.

Conditions are rising to standard summer levels now because ocean waters are warming and bringing in heated air, he said.

"I'm glad it's getting hotter," said Sherry Shifflett of Hagerstown, who found this spring chillier than normal. "I don't like being cold for too long. I didn't think it was ever going to warm up."

The Herald-Mail Articles