Lightning puts on show; no damage cited

Fire experts advise residents to watch for smoldering roots

By Eric Florip and Ray Legendre

Published:

Updated: July 20, 2012, 5:56 PM

 

Lightning put on a show over Clark County late Thursday and early Friday, but appeared to spare the region of any damage, fires or headaches, local officials said.

About 40 lightning strikes lit up the sky in Clark County, said Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. Most of those flashed between 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday, he said, largely in east county near Camas and Washougal.

Despite the potent storm, fire officials in the two cities reported no major calls associated with the weather.

“Frankly, I’m surprised, as prolific as the lightning was,” said Scott Koehler, fire chief at East County Fire & Rescue.

Lightning lasted until around 11 p.m. Thursday, and then started again around 5 or 6 a.m. Friday, Koehler said.

Though no injuries or property damage were reported Thursday night or Friday morning, Koehler advised residents to remain vigilant. Lightning strikes can cause roots underground to smolder for days before a fire ignites, he said.

Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart was out of town Thursday night, but noted he did not receive any calls notifying him of any major weather-related events.

People should stay inside, avoid standing near tall metal structures and remain on the bottom floor, if they’re in a multifloor building, when lightning storms occur, he said.

“The idea is to stay away from the danger,” Swinhart said.

Thunderstorms have rumbled across the Northwest for much of this week, but stayed east or north of Southwest Washington. On Thursday, the right recipe of warmth, air flow and moisture — plus a little leftover moisture from a dissipating Pacific hurricane — brought them here, Bryant said. The threat of lightning had evaporated by Friday morning, he said.

The storms didn’t cause any major power outages in the area, said Clark Public Utilities spokeswoman Erica Erland. Damaged trees or power lines can be a problem during thunderstorms, she said, but those disruptions are usually hit-and-miss.

“It really just depends,” Erland said. “For us, wind and ice are far more consistently damaging.”