Lightning Jolts Suburbs in Wisconsin

Fire departments in the northern suburbs scrambled Tuesday morning when lightning strikes started a house fire, downed trees and electric lines and set off alarms.

A band of storms moved through the northern suburbs and into western Wisconsin at about 9 a.m. Tuesday, said Rick Hiltbrand, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. The storm produced lightning, hail and rain, he said.

In Vadnais Heights, lightning set a house on fire on Timberline Trail, said Fire Chief Ed Leier. The strike awoke a woman in her bed and caused plaster to rain down on her, Leier said. Shortly after, the house filled with smoke.

The woman escaped with her infant daughter and 4-year-old daughter. In addition to firefighters from Vadnais Heights, crews responded from the White Bear Lake, Little Canada and Lake Johanna volunteer fire departments.

The fire was contained to the attic and the northwest corner of the structure, Leier said. He said he did not have an estimate on damage.

Little Canada firefighters covered the city while the others fought the fire. While in Vadnais Heights, the crew responded to a report of power lines downed by trees struck by lightning, Leier said.

"It was a busy morning," he said.

In New Brighton, firefighters believe lightning set off an alarm at Dotronix, a video sign company at 160 First St. S.E. Bob Jacobson, public safety director, said firefighters think lightning hit the ground nearby and set off the alarm.

The storms also produced hail, Hiltbrand said. One-inch-size hail was reported in Vadnais Heights and White Bear Lake, he said, and dime-size hail was reported outside of River Falls and Somerset, Wis. He had no reports of damage.

Distributed by the Associated Press