July 28, 2008

Storms Hammer LI, Spark Injuries, Fire, Power Outages

By Erik German, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Jul. 28--A cluster of thunderstorms rained and hailed its way across Long Island yesterday, casting down lightning bolts that injured several residents, burned at least one home and disrupted electricity for tens of thousands of power customers.

"It was a very, very intensive lightning event, one of the heaviest we've seen in some time," said Long Island Power Authority spokesman Ed Dumas. "For a period we were taking strikes every second."

One of those bolts struck a group of soccer players sheltering under a tree in Hicksville around 10:20 a.m. Witnesses said at least one of the men -- none of whom were identified -- was burned severely enough that he was taken by ambulance to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment.

Fire officials did not have precise estimates of how many fires the electrical storm sparked yesterday, but dispatchers in Nassau and Suffolk counties confirmed receiving "numerous" lightning-related calls.

An apparent lightning strike in Dix Hills caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to a house on Caledonia Road, said Dix Hills Fire Department First Assistant Chief Robert Adcock. There were no injuries, he said.

Adcock said the home's residents, who were not identified, owned a number of musical instruments, some of which were saved. But the fire, which occurred about 12:10 p.m., destroyed one particularly valuable violin.

More than 77,000 LIPA customers coped with some disruption in their power service yesterday, Dumas said, and 11,000 were still awaiting repairs late last night. Some of the heaviest strikes occurred in Suffolk, Dumas said, where lightning bolts knocked out power substations in Mastic and south Shirley.

The outage caused delays of up to two hours on the Montauk branch of the Long Island Rail Road, transit officials reported.

The National Weather Service recorded 1.71 inches of rain in Islip, but said the patchy storms dumped even more rain in parts of Nassau and southwestern Suffolk.

Staff writer Patrick Whittle contributed to this story.


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