Thursday, August 10, 2000

Storms flash through region

Thousands are without electricity

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lightning strikes beyond the Suspension Bridge in Covington.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        Tennis, baseball and even a hot boy band all took a back seat to the weather Wednesday night.

        A series of severe thunderstorms — accompanied by hail as big as golf balls in some areas, numerous lightning strikes, heavy rain and high winds — blew through the Tristate, causing widespread power outages on both sides of the Ohio River.

        Cinergy reported about 50,000 customers were without power this morning, even though repair crews worked through the night. As many as 90,000 customers had lost power Wednesday evening.

        The outages were in southern Butler, Hamilton, Clermont and Warren counties in Ohio, and in Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties in Kentucky.

        There were countless reports of trees and wires down, and scattered reports of roof and window damage as well as lightning strikes, but no initial reports of major injuries.

Lightning flashes above the Reds-Braves game at Cinergy Field
(AP photo)
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        The National Weather Service reported wind gusts in excess of 60 mph in Gallatin and Boone counties in Kentucky, and Ohio and Switzerland counties in Indi ana. As much as 5 inches of rain fell in some areas, the weather service said, and some Southeast Indiana counties had flood warnings.

        The storms delayed play at the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati in Mason, delayed the start of the Cincinnati Reds-Atlanta Braves baseball game at Cinergy Field, and forced cancellation of a 98` concert in Covington.

        Scores of teens waiting to get in to the band's outdoor concert in the parking lot above the Waterfront Restaurant huddled under the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge as the rains came down.

        Mary Gesenhues, 12, of Delhi Township and three of her friends had been waiting in line since about 4:15 p.m. when the storm arrived.

        “We were pretty close to the entrance,” Mary said. “There were cups and dirt flying around. We weren't going to stay out there.”

        Mary and her friends got wet as they made their way to a nearby restaurant to seek shelter and call for a ride home.

        “We're very disappointed,” she said of not seeing the multiplatinum hometown singing group.

        The concert, which was to be filmed for a Disney Channel fall special, has been rescheduled for 8:30 p.m. today.

Alex Kohrman, 9, looks over a tree which fell onto his neighbors' house on Lawyer Road in Anderson Township.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        Tornado warnings were issued for Adams, Brown and Butler counties in Ohio as the storm system moved from west to east, darkening the early evening skies. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for most other area counties.

        Residents reported seeing funnel clouds in Sharonville in Hamilton County, Sardinia in Brown County and in Campbell and Kenton counties in Kentucky, but there were no official reports of touchdowns.

        Area police and fire dispatchers were swamped with storm-related calls through the evening.

        “You name it, we've had it,” said Jeff Root, a dispatcher at the Hamilton County Communications Center. Passengers headed to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky In ternational Airport were also inconvenienced by the storms.

        “We've got a lot of canceled flights and lots of delays,” airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said. “There's no (total) number available, but it's a substantial amount.”

A downed tree hangs limply over power lines on Brittnay Street in Sycamore Township.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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        Radio station WIZF-FM (100.9) went off the air during the storms.

        In Northern Kentucky, rescue personnel responded to reports of a person struck by lightning at the Meijer gas station on Alexandria Pike.

        In Bellevue in Campbell County, the business district shut down because of widespread power outages. In Kenton County, the street lights went out along But termilk Pike in Fort Mitchell.

        Elsewhere, a storm that moved through central Ohio tore off the second floor of an unoccupied house in Ashville.

        “It appears to be that straight-line winds came through from the storm and flattened the top half of the house,” said Kevin Driesbach, director of the Pickaway County Emergency Management Agency.

        No one was home when the storm hit, he said.

Lightning strikes at the ATP Tennis Center in Mason.
(Gary Landers photo)
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        Several trees also were knocked down in the area, damaging four trailers at a trailer park, Mr. Driesbach said.

        Damaging winds continued pounding much of Ohio into Wednesday evening, leaving several thousand households in the Columbus area without power.

        The storms delayed the Texas Rangers-Cleveland Indians game 91 minutes.

        Mara H. Gottfried, Reid Forgrave, Marie McCain, Larry Nager and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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