Storm brings 60 lightning strikes in five minutes

By Keith Strange

July 17, 2013

Mount Airy and Surry County emergency workers were scrambling Wednesday to handle a rash of problems as a result of what has been described as a “very active” storm system that settled over the city.

And forecasters with the National Weather Service agreed.

“Your whole area was very active with lightning,” said Mike Sporer, meteorologist. “Mount Airy received about two-and-a-half inches of rain between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., and we recorded up to 60 lightning strikes in a five-minute period. That’s an awful lot of activity.”

It was enough to keep emergency workers hopping.

One woman, whose name was not available, had to be rescued from her 280 Orchard View Drive home during the storm, according to John Shelton, emergency services director.

“We had to do a water rescue,” he said breathlessly as he changed clothes to “get back out there.” “Water was all around her house. The river came loose and went around her home, creating something like an island, so we went in and got her out.”

Shelton said water still engulfed the home later in the afternoon, making it impossible for emergency workers to ascertain any damage.

According to data gleaned from the county’s emergency services website, shortly before 2 p.m., firefighters were working multiple calls related to flooded roads, downed trees and two lightning-sparked structure fires.

One of the structure fires was located on Lynnewood Drive in the Flat Rock community, and the other was located on Patchwork Lane.

Shelton said both fires were caused by lightning generated by the storm.

According to the emergency services director, both homes sustained damage but neither is being classified as a total loss.

The emergency services website reported standing water on multiple roadways during the height of the storm, including Lebanon and South streets, Riverside Drive, Willow Street, Lovers Lane and Quaker Road.

Downed trees were reported throughout the city, including one that fell on a power line on West Lebanon Street. Other reports of fallen trees included East Wilson Street, North Main Street, South Renfro Street and Stanley Road.

According to Erin Clubert, a spokesman for Duke Energy, 1,083 customers were without power shortly after 2 p.m., as a result of the storm.

Power was restored to all but 98 customers by 3:20 p.m., according to the power company spokesman.

Reach Keith Strange at or 719-1929.