MOUNT OLIVET - Strong winds and lightning associated with summer storms ignited fires, knocked down power lines and closed roads Wednesday evening.
Thousands of local residents were without power late Wednesday, and the Moundsville Police Department confirmed the Moundsville Bridge that spans the Ohio River between Ohio 7 and W.Va. 2 was closed due to a fallen power line.
Sgt. Steve Kosek said police received a call about 5:30 p.m. notifying them that orange barrels being used to control traffic while the bridge is painted had been scattered by high winds.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Firefighters from Marshall and Ohio counties battle a fire at 125 Heritage Road in Mount Olivet, apparently sparked by a bolt of lightning from a Wednesday afternoon storm.
"While officers were on the bridge, lightning struck a static line that runs across the bridge and dropped it onto the deck," he said. "No one could get through to Ohio."
Kosek said officers immediately closed the westbound lanes of the span and contacted American Electric Power.
"When AEP arrived, they said to close the whole thing. They said it was a very dangerous situation," he added.
Kosek said AEP called a crew in from Cambridge and workers planned to temporarily cut the line and reopen the bridge, possibly by midnight. The bridge remained open for emergency traffic, he said.
He expects the bridge to be closed for a short time today so final repairs can be made.
Firefighters believe a lightning bolt from an afternoon storm ignited the roof of Dr. Richard and Cecelia Irvin's home Wednesday, sparking a blaze that gutted the couple's Mount Olivet residence.
No one was inside at 125 Heritage Drive when the fire broke out, as the family was out of town on vacation. Mount Olivet Fire Chief Rob Nolte said a resident on Mozart Road called 911 and reported seeing a lighting bolt followed by flames shortly thereafter.
About a dozen area fire departments rushed to the scene to help, according to Nolte, but despite a steady attack with water from multiple angles, the flames continued to spread. Responders were pumping water from a hydrant along W.Va. 88, about a third of a mile away from the scene.
About 90 minutes into the operation, loud thunderclaps and flashes of lighting began anew, forcing the firefighters to scale back the use of their hoses until conditions improved.
The hard and steady rain that was soon to follow did little to quench the flames, as the roof continued to burn and collapse into the home.
Richard Irvin's sister said upon learning of the fire, her brother - a physician practicing in the Elm Grove area - and sister-in-law were able to provide the location of spare car keys to firefighters, who were able to pull the couple's vehicles out of the garage. Two dogs also escaped harm and were with a neighbor, she said.
The fire was under control by about 5:30 p.m. Although lightning is strongly suspected as the cause, Nolte said the fire remains under investigation.
Severe weather also plagued other parts of the Ohio Valley on Wednesday, tearing the roof from a home in Sherrard.
Carl and Desiree Myers were not home when powerful winds ripped off a portion of their roof during the Wednesday storms.
"A friend told us they heard on the scanner that a roof had been taken off," said Desiree Myers. "I came home and could not believe my eyes. This is unbelievable."
Myers said she and her husband will stay at their daughter's home while their roof undergoes the needed repairs.
Meanwhile, it was unclear at press time what caused another fire outside Cameron.
About 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Tom Hart, emergency management director for Marshall County, said the blaze was occurring near Woodruff in the extreme southeastern portion of the county near the Pennsylvania border. He said the structure was located off of Earnest Hill near the the Falls Run Church Cemetery. Hart said the Cameron, Fork Ridge, Hundred, Silver Hill and New Freeport volunteer fire departments responded.
Staff Writer Casey Junkins contributed to this report.