Storm generates much lightening, little damage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 26, 2003

Though the television screen was a swirl of Doppler colors and digital tornado graphics, seeming to forecast imminent doom for Pike County, the sun came up Saturday morning with most of the county completely unscathed.

Both the Troy Police Department and the Pike County Sheriff's Department said they had not received any calls Friday night stemming from the storms. In fact, aside from a brief power outage in parts of Troy, little seems to have resulted from Friday night's weather aside from a bit of rain and a few gusts of wind.

Many counties in the area experienced hail and falling trees, but reports from Pike County seemed to indicate that most residents avoided significant damage.

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According to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, there were no reports of storm damage from the county, although reports show severe thunderstorms mixing with a cold front throughout the evening Friday night, said a Weather Service spokesman.

Max Davis, head of the Southeast Alabama Electric Cooperative, said Pike County dodged a bullet last night.

"We were very fortunate," he said. "We did not have widespread trouble. While we did have some outages, they weren't nearly what they could have been."

Davis said, at the peak of the storm, between 300-350 Co-op customers were without power during a 2.5-hour time span Friday night, not counting two short-lived outages due to substation failure.

"We lost two substations when lightening caused surges that tripped some safety features. They were down for just minutes," he said.

Davis said that each substation served about 1,000 customers, but the switches that prevent damage from power surges is electronic, and energy crews were able to quickly reset them. He estimated one substation was down for about 12 minutes and the other down for even less time.

"We were lucky last night," he said.

Frank Matthews is a veteran weather watcher from Banks.

"That was the most lightning I've ever seen," he said.

"We had an inch (of rain) last night. We had a little bit of hail, but it was light. I never have seen any bigger than nickels or marble-sized. I heard it but didn't see it. The water was standing in the yard. I contacted two people that were out in it and they said it was hail."

Tornado warning sirens were sounded in Troy, but Matthews said although there were reports of a tornado touchdown near Louisville, he'd heard of no damage.

"They said it was a tornado in Troy and it was headed to Banks. I looked out and there wasn't a leaf moving," he said, noting that he was told the storm was 11 miles east of Troy.

In all, Matthews said he was glad to see the rain.

"We got three-and-seven-tenths (of an inch) out of two (storms)," he said. "We were glad to have the rain - we were starting to need it."