A lightning show can be beautiful to watch as thunderstorms roll through the area, but it can turn into a scary event.
Those strikes can damage property and hurt or kill people. Monday night’s lightning storm left behind its mark.
Two oil tanks leased by a Wellsville man were hit by lightning and caught fire in the 4200 block of Virginia Road at 7:37 p.m. Monday, according to a sheriff’s report. The fire was contained to the property and extinguished, according to officials. The loss was estimated at $14,200, the sheriff’s report said.
The KOFO radio tower — which stands 400 feet high — may have been hit by a lightning strike as well. Brad Howard, KOFO’s owner, said it may not have been a direct hit. The Ottawa Fire Department investigated the incident shortly after midnight Tuesday at 320 E. Radio Road, Ottawa, and found no fire, according to a fire department report.
“We have a little phenomenon that happens out here in thunderstorms where it arcs across the guide wires,” Howard said. “It happens all the time when we have thunderstorms move through. It is AM tower and AM towers are grounded into the guide wires, otherwise it would ground the signal out. At night, you can see it. It is Mother Nature having a little fun, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
The tower sticks out like a sore thumb during lightning storms, Howard said.
“It is a good lightning rod,” he said.
Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County Emergency Management director, said many of the towers in place today across the county are protected.
“They have special grounding on them, even if lightning strikes them, it goes to the ground,” he said.
Radcliffe said the main damage a lot of times is the power surges caused by the strikes, which knocks out the electricity.
He warned even a small storm like Monday’s can pack a serious punch. He said the main tip for staying safe in a lightning storm is if you can hear thunder, you need to go inside. He said people this time of year have begun to hang out at the ball fields and golf courses.
“People need to be aware of the weather and when storms are approaching, if they have lightning in them,” Radcliffe said. “If you hear the thunder, they need to get off the ball fields.”
Radcliffe said the oil tanker fire was quickly extinguished by the Wellsville Fire Department using foam, which takes away the oxygen.
“They used foam to blanket it,” he said. “When you have black oil burning, you are going to have black smoke. All the oil and runoff was contained on the property.”
Lightning strikes can be powerful. Cloud-to-ground lightning bolts are a common phenomenon — about 100 strike Earth’s surface every second — yet their power is extraordinary, according to nationalgeographic.com. Each bolt can contain up to one billion volts of electricity, the website said.
Lightning is extremely hot as a flash can heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface, the site said. The heat causes surrounding air to rapidly expand and vibrate, which creates the peal of thunder a short time after seeing a lightning flash.