A flurry of lightning strikes wreaked havoc on the South Shore Wednesday afternoon, sparking a number of structural fires, knocking out power to thousands of homes and slowing the commute.
In Rockland, a duplex fire started by lightning displaced five adults. It was among three fires caused by lightning in Rockland alone, and among dozens reported across southeastern Massachusetts.
No storm-related injuries were reported by local safety agencies.
“I feel very lucky,” said Debby Schipper, one of the five residents at 340 Liberty St. in Rockland who stayed at a hotel Wednesday night after a fire left their duplex uninhabitable. The American Red Cross provided emergency funds for the displaced residents.
Shortly after 3 p.m., dark clouds moved in from the west, bringing with them high winds, heavy rain and hail. Several towns reported downed trees and electrical wires.
The worst of the storms had passed by 6 p.m., but parts of several communities were still in the dark. National Grid spokesman David Graves reported about 28,000 of its Massachusetts customers were without power at 4:40 p.m. By 7 p.m., the number had dropped to 11,000.
In Hanson, the number of customers without power peaked at about 1,700. In Pembroke, the peak number was about 1,400; in Rockland and Abington, about 1,300 each.
Graves said National Grid expected that all affected homes would again have power by early this morning.
On Wednesday night, NStar said about 1,000 customers were without electricity in Kingston, Duxbury and Marshfield. Dennis Galvam, spokesman for the utility provider, said he couldn’t predict when power would be restored.
The storms prompted the National Weather Service to issue a severe thunderstorm warning across eastern Massachusetts and a flash flood warning in Norfolk County.
For local fire departments, the thunderstorms brought a busy afternoon. In Scituate, Capt. Brian McGowan said his department received eight storm-related calls, including one about a lightning strike that took off part of a chimney and sparked an attic fire at an apartment building on Country Way.
In Duxbury, firefighters hurried from one call to the next as the department responded to 14 storm-related incidents. Capt. John Guilderson said the weather created less-than-ideal driving conditions.
“It got dark,” Guilderson said of the clouds. “I was heading to one of the calls, and I had trouble seeing where I was going.
“There were big chunks of hail, a real downpour at one point. The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up.”
Firefighters in Kingston responded to a shed fire, a brush fire and two utility pole blazes caused by lightning, Capt. David Currier said. Currier said he hadn’t seen many storms like the one that rolled through Wednesday.
“This one was truly right on top of us,” he said.
Lightning also slowed the afternoon commute for people riding the Greenbush and Plymouth/Kingston rail lines. The jolts knocked out power at seven crossing gates, causing the trains to run about 20 minutes behind schedule, said Tom Halkin, spokesman for Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail.
Patriot Ledger correspondent Stephanie Spyropoulos contributed to this story. Patrick Ronan may be reached at email@example.com.
(NECN: Jennifer Eagan, Rockland, Mass.) – Lightning struck a home in Rockland, Mass. while several people were still inside Wednesday afternoon.
Firefighters were forced to retreat momentarily because of the blaze the strike caused.
"It felt like a bomb going off; it was pretty intense," said resident John Shipper.
Shipper’s home was one of three hit by lightning in the area.
Rockland Fire Chief Scott Duffy says there were no injuries, and that the storm was heavy.
"This was an incredible storm. The lightning strikes were intense and they were everywhere," said Duffy.
In Abington, Mass., lightning struck a tree and split it in two, sending a chunk of wood at Alan Cianfarini, who managed to avoid it.
The five people in the Rockland home were allowed to retrieve some items and had help from their friends for a place to stay overnight.