Fire chief: Lightning strikes caused six house fires in Hebron alone

Greater Cincinnati spent a little over an hour Wednesday afternoon in the grip of pelting rain and winds strong enough to make it fall horizontally, like the entire Tri-State had been knocked on its side. Waves of dusty water rolled down the steps outside WCPO's Gilbert Avenue offices in quantities large enough for one producer to call it "apocalyptic."

When the skies began to clear around 7 p.m., drivers, homeowners and emergency responders began to assess the damage.

Blackouts -- 22,000 homes without power around 7, according to Duke Energy's outage map -- were the least of it. Hebron Fire Protection District Chief Tony Scheben said his crews had responded to six separate house fires by 9; all of them, he believed, had been caused by lightning strikes. At least one cost a Hebron home its roof.

"(Lightning strike fires are) not very common, but when it happens, it seems to happen in multitudes," Scheben said, adding he had only responded to a handful of such fires in the past. "This is a new night for me."

For officers of the Cleves, Ohio Police Department, a stab of deja vu accompanied the sight of water pouring into their headquarters' basement. Flood damage sustained in May 2017 forced the department to embark on a year-long series of repairs that ended just two weeks ago; now, once again, their storage space, gym, garage, boiler room and holding areas are unusable due to water damage. 

"As far as level of water and speed of moving water, I think this was definitely worse," Sgt. David Bingle said. "Here we go again."

He was grateful none of the department's records or evidence had been affected, he added.

Other casualties of the weather included service for the Cincinnati Bell Connector, which stopped around 6 due to flooding on its route, traffic along flooded portions of Interstate 275, and a Vine Street building that began to shed bricks in the wind. 

Emergency responders also helped multiple vehicles out of floodwater throughout the evening, according to the Cincinnati Fire and Emergency Services Twitter account.

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