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Published: Saturday, 7/23/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Ex-councilman's house struck by lightning

Escobar able to escape flames, smoke

BY ZOE GORMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ex-Toledo City Council president Louis Escobar speaks with Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago after evacuating his South Toledo home. Ex-Toledo City Council president Louis Escobar speaks with Toledo Fire Chief Luis Santiago after evacuating his South Toledo home.
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Former City Council president Louis Escobar stood outside his house Friday afternoon in a nightshirt, hollering for his neighbors to help him — his one-story house on Ashbrook Drive had just been struck by lightning.

Mr. Escobar had been lying down to watch TV at about 3:30 p.m. — during which time severe storms were moving through the area — when he saw a blast of orange light and heard a loud crackling. A lightning bolt had struck the top of the back wall of his house and left a charcoal black patch.

Mr. Escobar called 911 from his house several times as flames shot up inside his home.

The smoke alarm went off before he realized the phone was no longer working. Clad in a nightshirt, he left his house as it filled with smoke, his cell phone left behind in a bedroom.

“I was literally standing in the driveway screaming, ‘Somebody help me!’”

With the help of neighbors, Mr. Escobar called the fire department and then tried to contain the fire with extinguishers.

Mr. Escobar saw a gush of smoke blow out his front door as the windows in his basement shattered from the smoke pressure. Unable to operate the extinguishers, he and his neighbors left the house.

Firefighters contained the blaze, but Mr. Escobar’s bathroom, his closet of clothes, and likely his laptop were destroyed.

He said he and his companion will live in a hotel until their house is restored.

The neighbors concentrated their efforts on getting Mr. Escobar clothed and bringing the firefighters water. When paramedics arrived, they gave Mr. Escobar an oxygen mask, which he said helped dissipate the smoke he had inhaled.

Neighbor Rich Michalak said he knew as soon as he heard the “explosion of thunder,” lightning had hit something nearby. Carolyn McCormick, his wife, said she felt vibrations throughout her body.

The storms that made their way across northwest Ohio Friday afternoon caused fallen trees, power outages, and spectacular lightning similar to what hit Mr. Escobar’s home.

When rain began falling over Lucas County after 1 p.m., the temperature dropped from 93 to 73 degrees within the hour.

Although the storm has caused complications for Mr. Escobar, it came as a relief for many from the extreme heat that has blasted through the area.

Toledo Express and Defiance airports reported that 1¼ inches of rain fell in those areas, although Toledo Executive Airport, the former Metcalf Field, reported only three-tenths of an inch of rain fell in the region.

In addition to an excessive heat warning that was in effect until 9 p.m. Friday for Wood, Hancock, Seneca, and 11 other counties, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for northern Wood County, northwestern Sandusky County, and western Ottawa County through Friday night.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued until 3 p.m. for northwestern Sandusky, Ottawa, northeastern Lucas, and northeastern Wood counties.

Area county officials said they did not have any high water areas to report, but they did respond to weather-related damage to trees and power.

A dispatcher in the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office said the storm knocked down several trees in Waterville that, in turn, damaged power lines.

In Defiance, where storms were reportedly strong, authorities reported one downed tree on Domersville Road and fallen power lines throughout the area.

Wood County Deputy Jeremy Holland also reported power line damage from fallen tree branches on Bradner and Recker Roads.

Debbie Paul, Toledo area manager of Toledo Edison, said 10,000 customers were without power at about 4:30 p.m. Friday because of storm-induced circuit lockouts.

She said the company expected to restore power to all customers by Saturday.

Westfield Franklin Park experienced flickering lights at around 2:30 p.m. Friday in areas scattered throughout the shopping mall, but power was fully restored without incident, a mall representative said.

Ottawa County Sheriff Deputy Jennifer Mansor said lightning downed a few trees and struck a railroad crossing in Graytown.

The National Weather Service is calling for a highs of 90 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, with a 50 percent and 40 percent chance of storms each day, respectively.

Blade staff writer Traci Tillman contributed to this story.



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