North Carolina Storms Return; Setting Off Fires, Floods

Lightning set off house fires and downpours flooded streets Thursday night across Mecklenburg and several surrounding counties, as thunderstorms pounded the region for the second time in 48 hours.

No injuries were reported from the storms, which formed along a cold front sagging southward across the Carolinas.

Cooler weather is expected today, but the heat will return Saturday. Another round of thunderstorms is forecast for Sunday.

Fire officials in Charlotte said they responded to at least two fires that appeared to be caused by lightning.

Fire Capt. Rob Brisley said the blazes -- on Pickering Drive in northeast Charlotte and on Haynes Hall Place off Sardis Road in southeast Charlotte -- started about the time the storm crossed the area.

Capt. Robbie Huneycutt suffered "non-life threatening" injuries battling flames at the fire in the 5300 block of Haynes Hall Place when a ceiling in the 2 1/2-story house collapsed and landed on him, Brisley said. Flames caused about $500,000 damage to the home.

Firefighters rescued a dog from the burning home in the 7600 block of Pickering Drive, which sustained $100,000 in damage. One person who was in the house during the blaze also escaped harm, Brisley said.

It was not immediately known whether lightning also started a third blaze, on Snowflake Court in the northeast part of Mecklenburg County.

"We had some reports of small hail and gusty winds, but heavy rain and lightning were the big problems with these storms," said John Tomko, of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C.

Other clusters of thunderstorms touched off fires in Caldwell and Catawba counties, northwest of Charlotte. Storms also dumped heavy rain to the east, in portions of Stanly, Anson and Richmond counties.

Heavy rain pelted much of central and eastern Mecklenburg County, causing brief flooding problems.

The flooding subsided later Thursday night as the storms weakened.

About three-quarters of an inch of rain fell at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, but heavier amounts were reported elsewhere. A U.S. Geological Survey gauge near Sardis Road in southeast Charlotte indicated 1.5 inches of rain fell in an hour around 8 p.m.

It was much the same story as Tuesday night, when storms formed about the same time of day and caused flooding and house fires. Rainfall was a bit heavier Tuesday, however, with some unofficial reports of more than 3 inches of rain falling.

Tomko said Carolinas residents should get a break from the stormy weather today.

"We'll be under the influence of a more stable air mass," he said.

Distributed by the Associated Press