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MailTribune.com
  • Wrath of the storm

    Flooding, power outages, strong winds and dangerous lightning sweep through the Rogue Valley and wreak havoc in their wake
  • A thunderstorm raged through Jackson County Sunday as lightning struck and partially burned a manufactured home in west Medford and also injured a Central Point McDonald's employee.
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  • A thunderstorm raged through Jackson County Sunday as lightning struck and partially burned a manufactured home in west Medford and also injured a Central Point McDonald's employee.
    Streets and homes flooded and widespread power outages were reported as the storm dumped a reported half-inch of rain in about 20 minutes in southwest Medford. More than 3,000 lightning strikes were recorded by the National Weather Service in Southern Oregon and Northern California Sunday afternoon until 9:30 p.m.
    Winds whipping up to 30 mph knocked trees onto power lines as lightning flashed and thunder shook the valley. More than 14,000 customers of Pacific Power lost electricity at various times starting at 7:40 p.m.
    Dan Grove, a volunteer firefighter with Fire District 3 in Central Point, said the injured McDonald's employee was pulling dishes out of a dishwasher when he got an electrical discharge from lightning that apparently struck a pipe on the roof.
    The identity of the McDonald's employee wasn't immediately available, but Grove said he was transported to Providence Medical Center for further observation.
    "He was doing OK," he said.
    Grove said he wasn't sure if the man was initially knocked out, but he was conscious at the time he received initial treatment.
    In a separate lightning strike, a manufactured home at 2552 Thorn Oak Drive, No. 17, was partially burned.
    Neighbor Marty Long said her son witnessed the power of the storm firsthand.
    "My son saw the lightning strikes, and he said, 'Mom, that was pretty close,' " said the 33-year-old mother. "My kids were trying to go to bed, but they're pretty scared."
    Six fire engines reported to the nearby Meadow View Park and the fire was quickly put out, said Long.
    "When I went out there, I just saw smoke," she said. The lightning struck the managers mobile home in the park, but she didn't think anyone was injured.
    Erin Sawall, acting battalion chief for the Medford Fire Department, confirmed lightning struck the roof of the manufactured home.
    When firefighters arrived four minutes after the call came in, Sawall said the fire had torn through the roof and smoke was in the attic.
    The occupants, whose names were not immediately available, managed to escape the house. "No one was injured," said Sawall.
    Within 20 minutes, the fire was brought under control.
    About 20 firefighters responded to the scene with the goal of saving valuable records that the manager kept for the park.
    Sawall said the manager and his wife were staying the night in a hotel. No damage estimates had been made as of Sunday night.
    During the height of the storm, extra firemen were called in to help, but it was difficult to keep up with the emergencies such as power outages, lightning strikes and even people temporarily trapped in elevators.
    "At one point we had more calls than apparatus," said Sawall.
    Getting fire vehicles safely to the scene also proved difficult. "There was standing water on the roadway," he said.
    Despite the number of calls, Sawall said he knew of no injuries caused by the storm
    Monte Mendenhall, spokesman for Pacific Power, said the stormed wreaked havoc on the power system
    "It's all related to lightning," he said.
    About 8,600 customers lost power at 7:40 p.m. in the Medford area, but it only lasted for about three minutes, he said.
    Then at 7:46 p.m., the Sage Road subdivision got knocked out when lightning struck a transmission pole at 1800 Sage Road.
    Mendenhall said 5,264 customers lost power, but most were back on by 8:56 p.m. Some 801 customers still were without power at 9:30 p.m.
    Throughout the county, another 90 customers also were in the dark after trees or lightning disrupted the electricity.
    "We will be working all through the night to restore service to all those customers," said Mendenhall.
    The Oregon State Police and Medford police reported only minor fender benders, but no injury accidents.
    "It was really wet and lots of traffic lights were out," said Medford master police officer Mark Cromwell. "It's unbelievable how much water was coming down at Main and Columbus."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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