Originally created 08/25/04

Lightning damages home in Martinez



Cynthia Crews-Morris huddled with her husband, son and the family dog in a neighbor's garage and watched firefighters battle the blaze that engulfed her home's attic Tuesday evening.

Mrs. Crews-Morris said that just after 5:30 p.m., she was upstairs and heard a loud crash, which turned out to be lightning striking the roof of her two-story Martinez home. Mrs. Crews-Morris said she went downstairs, smelled smoke and called 911 before retreating with her family to a neighbor's house.

The fire occurred as a deluge of rain hit the Martinez/Evans area at about 6 p.m., also causing a report of brief flooding on Washington Road at the entrance to Country Place subdivision in Evans and several minor wrecks on Interstate 20 at Belair Road.

"It fell basically in the Evans area," said Leonard Vaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C. In a period of about 30 minutes at 6 p.m., the Martinez and Evans area received nearly an inch of rain from a pop-up thunderstorm, Mr. Vaughan said, adding that a previous storm at noon dumped about a half inch of rain in the Martinez and Evans area.

The rain in Martinez contributed to five separate minor wrecks on I-20 at the Belair Road exit, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Rick Whitaker.

The lightning strike at Mrs. Crews-Morris's house, at 4149 Clinton Way E., caused considerable damage to her attic and two upstairs bedrooms, leaving a hole in the roof, said Honey Shore, a spokeswoman for the Martinez Fire Department.

Martinez Fire Department Assistant Chief James Champion said firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze with the help of heavy rain and lower than normal temperatures.

Mr. Vaughan said that for August, the Augusta area is 0.28 inches above normal rainfall, with a total of 3.78 inches. But the area is still 2 inches below normal rainfall for the year, he said.

Today, the National Weather Service forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and highs in the upper 80s.

Reach Valerie Rowell or Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 110 or 115.