Storm pummels city

A summer storm brought a city-wide power outage, hundreds of lightning strikes, hail and street-flooding to Ashland on Thursday.

Though some enjoyed the storm, taking the opportunity to kayak in the Ashland Shopping Center or run through raging waters flowing down city streets, many others found little to enjoy. Southern Oregon University family housing on Wightman Street flooded, and a tree fell on a house on Harrison Street.

The tree was "knocked over by extreme wind gusts," said Dave Shepherd of Ashland Fire and Rescue. "Fortunately it didn't look like there was a whole lot of damage but it did do some damage to the house. It knocked down power lines, creating an electrocution hazard, and tore up the whole sidewalk."

AFR responded to 12 calls for downed power lines, Shepherd said.

At SOU family housing, the three inches of precipitation that fell on Ashland was enough to flood five to seven residences.

"We haven't really had a chance to assess all the issues yet," William Smith, the associate vice president of housing and dining at SOU, said. "We had people out most of the night getting rid of the water and extracting carpets. We had a two trees down, one of which did slight damage to a house."

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Doug Peterson enjoys the rain water on Garfield Street during a storm on Thursday that flooded city streets and knocked out power to Ashland, Talent and parts of Phoenix.

Thom Larkin | For the Tidings

Despite the damage, residents were allowed to remain in their homes last night.

"We tried to let them have as good a night's sleep as possible," Smith said. Leaves and debris, dropped by the wind and hail, plugged up a nearby storm drain, causing the flooding, he said.

Electricity was lost &


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before the storm arrived locally, a result of lightning strikes in northern California at around 3:30 p.m.

"Something in northern California shut down the entire Rogue Valley from Barnett Road south," said Dick Wanderscheid, the director of Ashland's electric department. "It was down for about 45 minutes to an hour."

The entire city lost power twice, in addition to a number of "scattered distribution outages throughout the city," Wanderscheid said. Electricity was restored for good by about 6 p.m., he said.

Before it came back on the first time, the lightning storm had reached Ashland, bringing with it dime-sized hail to the southern end of town, flooding at various intersections and some 600 lightning strikes to the eastern side of the Valley.

Just before the rain began in Ashland, AFR responded with Jackson County Fire District 5 to a grass fire near North Mountain and Eagle Mill Roads.

"We sent a couple of units to make sure we didn't get a large grass fire," Shepherd said. "Eventually the rains came and helped out."

Firefighters from around the Valley said the associated rains undoubtedly helped to stave off many potential fires.

"People were smelling smoke everywhere, from the Colestine, to both sides of Ashland to the Greensprings," Brian Ballou, a fire information officer with Oregon Department of Forestry said. "But relatively few reports turned into actual fires. There was an awful lot of rain with it. The rain definitely helped to keep number of starts found so far real low. The storm we had Wednesday night was much drier."

Ballou added that more thunderstorms are forecasted for this afternoon and tonight, which could again test their luck.

"It's inevitable that we'll get some more (fires) popping up out of that one," he said.

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