Lightning Strikes Hit 4 Plainfield Road Homes
Damage from the lightning strike that traveled through Tammy Wainwright’s home in Plainfield on June 2 is visible on Sunday. Wainwright has had to stay at her brother’s until she can begin to restore the house. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
On Sunday Tammy Wainwright stands by her pool, which was damaged on June 2 by a lightning strike on her Plainfield home, rendering it uninhabitable. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Plainfield — It seems lightning loves Center of Town Road.
Since early June, at least four separate homes have been struck by lightning, three of them from a single bolt.
The residents of Center of Town Road were spared during the most recent bout of storms last week, but some, like Tammy Wainwright, are still recovering from earlier strikes.
It was a Sunday afternoon, June 2, and a strong thunderstorm had rolled in.
Wainwright was working a later than normal shift at FUJIFILM Dimatix, but her neighbors across the street, Robin and Bob Carpenter, were at home. Robin was inside and Bob was a short distance from the house in his workshop. Then they heard a roaring boom.
“When it hit the transmitter it made the biggest blast I’ve ever heard,” Robin Carpenter said. “It was pretty jolting.”
The strike blew out the electrical wiring in Bob Carpenter’s workshop, traveling along the waterline between the shop and the house, where it zapped the back wall where the phone was plugged in.
Before it diffused, the current “ripped through the earth,” Robin Carpenter said, before shooting through a rock wall and jumping across the street toward Wainwright’s home.
The bolt shot through the fence in her front yard, punctured a hole in her above ground pool and shot through to the other side, where it blew out the water pump. But the current didn’t stop there, entering the house through the air conditioning unit in Wainwright’s daughter’s bedroom, blowing out two light sockets and charring the walls. It moved through the length of her home, blowing out another outlet in her living room before blackening the wall in her own bedroom and melting her satellite dish outside. Along the way, the lightning bolt zapped her kitchen appliances and ruined her washer and dryer.
Wainwright’s brother, Tim Cloud, lives up the road and drove down to check on his sister’s home since she was at work. He found her pool leaking water and the inside of her housing smoky and smelling burnt.
Wainwright said “everything was blown right off the walls,” explaining that when she got home her picture frames, lamps and shelves were all on the floor.
But the singular bolt victimized a third home, about quarter of a mile down the road. Doug Cogan’s water pump got hit by the current, too.
There wasn’t a fire, though the Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department checked for hot spots in the homes for several hours.
“I’ve never seen it carve furrows into the ground like that before,” Fire Chief Frank Currier said.
But that wasn’t the last time the fire department was called to Center of Town Road for a lightning strike. On July 10, Cogan’s home was struck again, this time lighting his attic on fire.
“We’ve had many, many intense rain and thunder storms this summer,” he said. “This was another one where I was just watching my rain gauge rise.”
Cogan tracks the weather for the town of Plainfield and has been doing so for more than two decades. But he’s never seen this many lightning strikes all in one concentrated area.
The same day Cogan’s home was struck for a second time, Lawrence and Phyllis Aldrich’s home was also struck by lightning. Lawrence Aldrich was sitting in the garage with a friend when the bolt came down through the satellite dish atop their garage and struck the ground directly behind them. There was a burst of light, he said, and a loud boom.
“Lighting, fire and flood, it’s all happening here on Center Town Road,” Cogan said.
Currier said he can’t explain why so many homes have been struck on Center of Town Road, but did say they have responded to many lightning strikes this summer. “Too many to guess,” he said.
Currier explained that Center of Town Road is on what’s called a “ledge,” a large slab of rock that is only covered by a few feet worth of dirt. When the lightning struck the Carpenter’s and hit the ground, it didn’t have anywhere to go, which is why it shot off toward Wainwright’s pool and Cogan’s water pump.
“It makes you nervous,” Phyllis Aldrich said.
Wainwright is living in her brother’s camper up the road, waiting for her insurance company to process her claim. She said she will probably have to gut the entire home and rewire everything. Cogan’s attic is charred and he and his wife’s bedroom has significant water damage. But both said it could have been worse.
“I feel a little displaced, but luckily I have my family close by so they’re taking pretty good care of me,” Wainwright said. “It’s not the ideal situation that we want to be in but we’re dealing with it OK.”
Last Wednesday, National Weather Service meteorologists recorded more than 1,000 lightning strikes across Carroll County in the course of one hour, including several that started fires.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Katie Mettler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3234.