Storm batters trees, cuts power
An intense, slow-moving thunderstorm with winds of up to 60 mph and, according to the National Weather Service, hail the size of ping-pong balls swept across the southeast portion of the county Saturday, downing tree limbs and power lines.
Falling limbs from aging trees tore down lines and took out utility poles on Maple St. south of 2nd St. in Peabody and at 3rd and North Sts. in Marion.
In Peabody, firefighters were briefly delayed because power to their fire station had failed and they had to wait for a firefighter with a key to open the doors.
Multiple lines along Maple St. were torn to the ground at 6:36 p.m. after a large branch peeled off a tree on property owned by absentee landlords Kenneth and Constance Oliver of Augusta.
The branch downed lines, and weight of debris snapped the top off a large utility pole at 2nd and Maple Sts. that feeds power to the west side of town.
As emergency crews arrived to begin cleanup and repairs, neighbor Gary Branham was sitting on his front porch, watching with a friend.
“Three years ago, a branch from the same tree fell on my house and took out the corner there,” Branham said, pointing to a section of porch. “We were lucky it fell the other way this time.”
The branch narrowly missed Branham’s car, parked scant inches away from the tree.
“Last time it bent my flag pole,” Branham said. “You can see it’s still bent. I got it straightened out a little. I didn’t want to spend $85 for a new one, but you’ve got to be able to fly the flag on the Fourth of July, don’t you?”
Tree limbs also were reported blocking the intersection at 9th and Maple Sts., where power lines also were downed.
A tree limb was reported downed against Jerry and Carolee Foth’s house at 605 N. Sycamore St.
A power line was reported down at 9th and Sycamore Sts.
Lightning reportedly downed a tree against a power line on 5th St. between Maple and Elm Sts.
Utility lines were downed by a tree limb in the block bounded by 3rd, 4th, Sycamore and Maple Sts.
Damage to playground equipment at the elementary school also was reported. And tree limbs were reported down in the 500 block of Spruce St. and on S. Olive St.
Peabody police reported having trouble controlling gawkers who, despite warnings, walked dangerously close to downed lines.
Floodwaters briefly blocked the roadway at 5th St. and Old Mill Rd., and smaller limbs were down throughout the city, but emergency crews quickly cleared most streets.
At 8:09 p.m. in Marion, a large branch of a tree at 401 N. 3rd St., owned by absentee landlords Vickie Fine and Elmer Schaefer of rural Marion, was apparently struck by lightning and collapsed onto a utility pole, felling the pole and starting a smoldering fire in debris that completely blocked N. 3rd St.
While onlookers waited for emergency crews to respond, a second branch of almost equal size began noisily cracking and collapsed, completely blocking E. North St.
Firefighters remained on the scene until 8:56 p.m., and city crews with front loaders continued work clearing debris after that.
No other significant damage was reported in Marion or elsewhere in the county. Deputies patrolling Marion Reservoir reported high winds but no problems at the Cottonwood Point campground.
Emergency management personnel spent the evening documenting damage by collecting photographs.