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Lightning strikes several homes

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    A lightning strike is the cause of a fire that destroyed this garage along Hemlock Drive in Mahoning Township Sunday evening. The fire was reported just before 7 p.m. Sunday. Neighbors and the owner reported seeing a bright bolt of lightning and hearing a loud crack before the fire. One neighbor went to investigate if the bolt struck anything and spotted flames coming from the structure. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published May 19. 2019 09:00PM

Hundreds of customers throughout the area were without power this morning as a result of Sunday’s powerful thunderstorms.

As of 9 a.m., 472 customers were without power in Schuylkill County, according to PPL director Carol Obando-Derstine. Of those, she said 408 were in West Mahanoy Township.

Tamaqua Elementary School operated on a two-hour delay because of an outage.

Obando-Derstine said 222 customers were without power throughout parts of Monroe County due to tree limbs on wires. In Lehigh County, she said 42 were without power, including 34 in Washington Township.

In Carbon County, eight were without power, seven of which were in Mahoning Township and one in Towamensing Township; while just two were without power in Northampton County, both in Lehigh Township, she said.

“Trees are the number one cause of outages during storms,” Obando-Derstine said. “We’re working as quickly and safely as possible to restore customers who are currently out.”

The storm was so wicked that several homes in Carbon County were reported to be struck by lightning.

One of the homes that was damaged belongs to Carbon County Sheriff Anthony Harvilla and his wife, Cheryl, who live on East Maple Street, Tresckow, Banks Township.

McAdoo fire Chief Bob Leshko said his department was dispatched at 6:38 p.m. to the couple’s home, at which time they found flames and smoke coming from the rear of the two-story home.

Leshko said it appeared the lightning struck the peak of the roof. He said family members told him they heard a loud bang, after which time they exited the home before firefighters arrived at the scene.

Leshko said smoke was pouring out of the eaves of the home while firefighters contained the working fire in about 15 minutes. He estimated the damages to be about $50,000.

No one was injured.

Firefighters from Hometown, Sheppton, Hazle Township, Beaver Meadows and Weatherly responded.

The Harvillas have secured other temporary living accommodations.

A lightning strike also caused a fire that destroyed a garage along Hemlock Drive in Mahoning Township Sunday evening. The fire was reported just before 7 p.m. Sunday.

Gary Williams, Carbon County 911 director, said, “We had people who were doing doubles, how busy they were. It seems like every fire department in the county got paged out.”

The call volume handled by the Carbon County 911 Center over this past weekend from Friday through the early Monday was a peak call volume period for the 911 Center, with dispatchers answering 1,561 phone calls during this time period and 535 incidents.

“When the storm came through, it just went nuts,” Williams said.

Seven dwelling/structure fires were reported, including Lower Towamensing, Penn Forest, Mahoning, Nesquehoning and Banks townships and Tamaqua.

The center received one call for a tree down on Interstate 80.

The amount of rain areas received varied, as Allentown received over 1.2 inches, according to Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.

“Everybody heard thunder and saw lightning; some areas got hit hard by rain and others didn’t, which is pretty typical when it comes to thunderstorms,” Kines said. “When the forecast calls for the possibility of severe weather, you’ve really got to pay attention to what’s going in; you just can’t ignore those warnings.”

Kines said we could see another shower or thunderstorm this afternoon.

“Another warm and humid day,” he said. “I don’t think the storms this afternoon will rival what some areas had yesterday.”

Kines said Tuesday should have a fair amount of sunshine, less humid and cooler, with temperatures in the upper 60s to close to 70, and lows down into the 40s.

Wednesday is expected to be partly sunny and 70.

“Once we get past today, the next couple of days are looking pretty good,” he said.

Obando-Derstine said customers who experience outages should report it to them immediately at 800-DIALPPL, or pplelectric.com. They can also send texts to 898775.

She encouraged customers to check their outage map to stay up to date. Customers can also sign up to receive text, email or phone call alerts.

“We ask that our customers stay safe, stay away from downed wires; always assume that they are energized,” she said. “Keep animals and children away from downed wires; report it to us immediately.”

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