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Lightning strikes down power lines

Storm damage results in closed roads and the evacuation of an elementary school.
Thursday, August 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

A lightning strike severed a power line overhanging Providence Road between Green Meadows and Nifong at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday.

“The lightning hit pretty close several times around here,” said Wayne Wiles, a resident near the site of the strike.

And, when a power surge at New Haven Elementary School resulted in the loss of electricity, students were evacuated.

Weather caused damage around the city Wednesday afternoon, although the majority of incidents was not considered serious by city officials.

Columbia police and fire department officers blocked traffic for two hours between Green Meadows and Nifong until electrical workers were able to clear the power line.

In addition to regular traffic, nine school buses carrying about 400 students were delayed, said Tim Reed, contract manager for First Student Bus Company, which serves the Columbia Public Schools.

Power was restored at 5:15 p.m., said Ben Johnston, electric distribution manager for Columbia Water and Light.

The Green Meadows area, Forum Boulevard, the Peach Tree area and Rock Bridge High School all were affected. About 2,000 to 3,000 homes were left without power, Johnston said. No injuries were reported.

Representatives from the Columbia and Boone County fire departments said four motor vehicle accidents, a fire, three calls about fallen power lines and the power surge kept them busy all afternoon.

The power surge at New Haven Elementary School added some excitement to the third day of school.

“We heard two loud lightning strikes around 1:45,” said Cindy Giovanini, principal at New Haven. “At that time, everything went down — lights, air, computers, and within a couple minutes, the phones went down.”

The school evacuated all of its more than 250 students in just two minutes. Teachers and administrators agreed the process went smoothly, even though no safety drills had been conducted yet this year.

“It didn’t change a darn thing,” said Victoria Mongillo, a teacher at the school for 18 years. “Our kids followed directions, our teachers knew the

procedures, and so we did what we needed to do.”

Fifteen minutes later students returned to the building. Giovanini took extra time with the fifth graders to thank them.

“Remember what I told you the first day of school, how you had to be the role models?” she said. “You did super.”

Another lightning bolt struck the home of Donald and Barbara Osburn at 8100 Richland Road at 3:50 p.m. The couple was at home when they heard a clap of thunder and smelled smoke upstairs. After discovering a fire, they notified the Boone County Fire District, which contained the fire to the bed and bathroom on the second floor, where it was extinguished. No one was injured.

Mark Britt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said the bad weather could continue. More storms are predicted this weekend to accompany the hot and humid temperatures, which could reach into the 80s.

“It seems unusual,” Britt said. “We’ve had weather like this before at this time of year, but it’s not typical.”

Thursday is expected to be partly cloudy, hot and humid, with a high of 92 degrees and a heat index of 102.

Missourian reporters Nadia Afifi, Nigel Duara and Elizabeth Neal contributed to this report.


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