PERRY HALL, Md. (WJZ)– A lightning strike at a condo complex in Baltimore County causes hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Of more concern, this is the third time lightning has ruined homes there.

Mike Schuh spoke to residents dealing with yet another disaster.

A viewer’s cell phone video shows what lightning can do at the Chapel Hill Condominiums.

“Crews were dispatched,” said Lynn Mullahey of the Baltimore County Fire Department. “When they arrived, they found heavy fire coming from the roof of the building.”

It grew, so two extra alarms were called up. A hundred people were needed to bring the fire under control. In the light of day, those burned out hoped to return. The home of the complex manager took the worst of it. The Antonios live right across the hall. They weren’t burned out, but smoked out.

“And the ceiling’s caved in, there’s glass everywhere. Drywall, it’s crunching when you walk,” they said.

But aside from medicine and memories…

Reporter: “What is your main concern right now?”

Melissa Antonio: “Our cat is still inside and seeing what we can salvage.”

Five years ago, the building at the end of the street was hit by lightning and burned up. Three years ago, it was a unit in the same complex that was destroyed, and now this. It has residents asking: What are the odds?

“In truth, the odds of being struck by lightning are pretty good if you’ve been struck once before,” said Peter Yancone from the Maryland Science Center. “There’s something about the soil conditions or the structure or the elevation, something that makes the site attractive to lightning.”

Yancone researched the issued for us.

“It’s like, why?” asked Bill Antonio. “What’s making it draw the lighting to our buildings?”

“What could be at play would be buried utilities, soil chemistry, water that is on site. Anything that makes the site attractive,” Yancone said.

After the last strike, the condo board looked at putting up lightning rods, but their experts said they could cause even more damage. And to add misery to heartache, residents here stayed up all night as they feared looters.

“And they were circling like vultures, the same people,” Bill Antonio said. “Sad.”

Reporter: “Kicking people when they’re down?”

Melissa Antonio: “Yeah, like it’s not bad enough.”

Late Friday afternoon, some of the residents were allowed to go inside to get a few more of their items. Now they’re wondering if their insurance will cover them while they are displaced as the condos are being rebuilt.

Everyone in the community had other places to stay so they did not need the services of the Red Cross.

Comments (4)
  1. Larry says:

    Lightning rods are not that expensive. They don’t look pretty, but they DO save lives. I can’t believe they did not install them after the first strike.

    1. Shibbj says:

      They said the lightning rods could cause more damage, not cost too much. Not sure how they cause the extra damage, though.

    2. NO1 says:

      The panel confirmed that there was no scientific basis for NFPA 781. But guess what, it said. There’s no scientific basis for NFPA 780 (traditional lightning rods) either.

      NFPA membership voted to approve an updated 780 anyway, but the NFPA standards council overruled them and announced its intention to rescind 780 unless somebody could give them good reason not to. While the NFPA wouldn’t come right out and admit it when I called, I suspect the threat of another lawsuit was in the back of everybody’s mind.

      Proponents of traditional lightning rods freaked. A report from the Federal Interagency Lightning Protection User Group said, in essence, Come on, everybody knows this stuff works — if you rescind NFPA 780 it’ll be back to the anything-goes days of the 19th century, when lightning rod con artists abounded. But there was an unmistakable air of desperation to the group’s plea. Much of the evidence was from sources like the Iowa state fire marshal’s annual report from the 1920s, which talked about barn fires. After 1950 research largely ceased; people just assumed traditional lightning rods worked.

  2. Jenn says:

    Here we got again. This time Mike Schue is on sight.

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