Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Lightning strike sparks fire that guts cabin near Marion Center

by on July 09, 2014 10:59 AM

Lightning hit at least one building and strong winds snapped trees and limbs that blocked roads and cut off electricity service Tuesday afternoon in northern Indiana County.

Eighty miles to the west, a tornado was confirmed in Mercer County.

John Darnley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office near Pittsburgh, said the timing of the storm — a cool front moved into Indiana County during the afternoon’s period of peak heating — triggered the relatively brief but intense rain and wind.

Rainfall varied widely across the county. Only 0.12 inch of rain was measured near Indiana during the 24-hour period that ended this morning. But Darnley said about one-half inch fell on southern Indiana County and just less than 2 inches soaked some northern parts of the county.

Lightning struck an unoccupied cabin along Big Two Road in East Mahoning Township, sparking a blaze that destroyed the structure, according to Rich Lydic, chief of the Marion Center Volunteer Fire Department.

Lydic said a distant neighbor witnessed the strike but didn’t immediately realize it had hit the cabin, resulting in a slight delay before the call came in.

In addition, a bad bridge required firefighters to drag hose more than 600 feet to the location. Firefighters from Marion Center, Plumville and Clymer responded and were at the scene about three hours, with Creekside on standby. Nobody was injured, Lydic said.

The cabin was owned by Don Rupert, of Elderton.

Several secondary roads near Ambrose, East Mahoning Township, were blocked by fallen trees and limbs following the intense rain and wind.

Gary Grindle, co-manager of REA Energy, said about 250 customers in the Marion Center, Ambrose and Plumville areas lost their electricity service during the storm. Power was restored to all customers by 1:30 a.m. today, according to Grindle.

About 228,000 homes and businesses across Pennsylvania remained without power early today after the severe thunderstorms that raced across the state Tuesday.

The bulk of the power outages are in the Philadelphia region, which has 153,000 outages. In Chester County, 65,000 were still in the dark early today.

The National Weather Service reported a tornado touched down Tuesday afternoon near the town of Hoagland in Mercer County. It traveled 2 1/2 miles along Route 318, knocking over trees. There were reports of damaged roofs and downed trees in Mercer and Armstrong counties.

The weather service said possible tornadoes were also reported Tuesday in Perry, Bedford and Sullivan counties in central Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms rolled through central New York, killing four people, destroying or damaging numerous homes and knocking out power to more than 70,000 utility customers, officials said today.

The deaths occurred in the rural town of Smithfield, between Syracuse and Utica, after the storms hit at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said.

In Smithfield, at least four homes were destroyed and several others were damaged, Undersheriff John Ball said.

Early today, about 72,000 homes and businesses were without power, most in central and northern New York.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

PHOTO: An unoccupied cabin along Big Two Road in East Mahoning Township was destroyed Tuesday after being struck by lightning. Courtesy of Marion Center Volunteer Fire Department. 

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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