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'Fireballs' reported in east Fort Worth

05/10/2011 11:51 PM

05/13/2011 10:12 PM

FORT WORTH -- Fire and police dispatchers were busy Tuesday night answering calls about "fireballs" in the sky and on the ground in east Fort Worth.

Several transformers were struck by lightning in east Fort Worth Tuesday night, Oncor spokeswoman Jeamy Molina said.

Repair crews worked through overnight Wednesday through the afternoon after the lightning strikes "destroyed" some of the transformers, Molina said.

About 550 power outages were being reported in the Metroplex as of noon Wednesday, with most of them in the Fort Worth area, Molina said.

The number of outages have been reduced from the 4,000 outages reported late Tuesday, Molina said.

About 210 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were reported in Tarrant County between 8 and 9 p.m., said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mosier, who said he couldn't pinpoint the exact locations.

Some 120 more incidents of lightning striking the ground were reported from 9 to 10 p.m., Mosier said.

Mosier said he didn't know if it had to strike the transformer directly or the ground close to it but if the lightning carries a large enough electrical charge, it can "blow" a transformer.

At 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, police officers were blocking East First Street from about Beach Street to Oakland Boulevard.

The calls began coming in about 9 p.m. in the White Lake Hills area along Interstate 30 east of Oakland and west of East Loop 820.

Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders said that whatever it was, it was dramatic.

"I've seen lightning strike, and this was no lightning," he said. "It may have been precipitated by lightning strikes."

Sanders said he was at his home, which backs up to Randol Mill Road, when he saw "blazes up in the air."

"I saw fire in the sky and on the ground," he said. "I saw 10 or 12 explosions. It was like someone was dropping bombs."

After his power went out, he got in his car to investigate and found that street and signal lights were not working.

There were two fires west of the Riverbend Estates, north of I-30 and west of Loop 820, he said.

Anselma Knabe, who lives near Randol Mill and Oakland, said she heard some kind of explosion about 9 p.m.

When she looked outside, "sparks were showering everywhere," she said. "I thought the house was going to catch fire. Luckily, we have a metal roof."

The police scanner was noisy with chatter as officers called for assistance.

"I need someone from Oncor out here for a transformer on fire," one officer said.

A dispatcher said they were swamped with similar calls and said, "I'll add you to the list."

Fort Worth firefighters responded to several calls involving transformers and electrical problems Tuesday night, Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Tim Hardeman said.

There were several calls about a possible lightning strike at a transformer substation at 4800 Randol Mill Road just after 9 p.m. after repeated sightings of flashes and explosions, Hardeman said.

There was also a report of a transformer on fire at the Five Star Custom Foods storage facility at 3709 East 1st Street at about 10:04 p.m., Hardeman said.

It's not known at this time if the transformer belonged to the food storage facility as it did not suffer a power outage, Hardeman said.

City health inspectors were called to the scene as a precaution, Hardeman said.

Staff writer Eva-Marie Ayala contributed to this report.

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