Tomato bowl lightning strike

An electrical transformer on the north side of the Tomato Bowl was struck by lightning at about 2 p.m. Thursday, and its wooden power pole caught fire. Jacksonville Fire Department firemen said transformers are frequent lightning targets because they are made of metal and are high in the air. The JFD waited until TXU staffers could switch off electricity through the transformer before quickly dousing the blaze. Progress photo by Kelly Young

By Kelly Young

Lightning struck a power line bordering the Tomato Bowl at approximately 1:50 p.m. Thursday as the county endured its third straight day of thunderstorms.

“The Tomato Bowl was not stuck by lightning. What happened is that the lightning struck a utility pole on the north side of the building and set the pole on fire,” said Fire Marshal Brent Smith, of the Jacksonville Fire Department.

JFD arrived on the scene quickly, but was forced to wait until the electric company arrived to turn the power off before the burning pole could be extinguished. According to Smith, the fire was contained by roughly 2:30 p.m.

Smith explained that electrical transformers are the frequent targets of lightning strikes for the simple reasons that they are metal and are located high in the air.

According to Smith, both the wooden pole and the transformer will probably need to be replaced.

The month of May is only three days old, but each day so far has brought with it at least an inch of rain, with Thursday contributing the most. Cherokee County received 1.22 inches of rain Tuesday and got another 1.53 inches Wednesday. According to the National Weather Service in Shreveport, as of 3 p.m. Thursday, the area received a minimum of an additional inch-and-a-half.

“The radar indicates that Cherokee County has received at least an inch-and-a-quarter since 10 a.m. Thursday, but I would guess that the area has been getting heavier rain than the radar is reporting,” said NWS Meteorologist Patrick Omundson. “Over the last three hours, from noon to 3 p.m., you’ve probably had two to two-and-a-half inches fall along the western border of the county, between Jacksonville and Palestine.”

Omundson said the worst of the storm struck the Jacksonville area at approximately 2 p.m., around the time the utility line was hit.

Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said things were relatively quiet.

“The main problems we’ve had concern tree limbs blocking roads.”

The sheriff’s staff has had to clear trees from FM Roads 1911 and 747, staffers said.

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