Fatal lightning strike, crashes, trees down, crops destroyed

A violent storm — the worst in decades — passed through Jefferson County Sunday afternoon, dropping an inch or more of precipitation, and causing severe damage, including a death and three-car crash just miles from each other.

A lightning strike killed Bret Hemenway, 50, of Madras, along U.S. Highway 97, just after 4 p.m., near the junction with the Antelope Highway. That accident occurred four miles north of a three-vehicle accident reported at 4 p.m., caused by mud on the highway.

One man remains hospitalized from that accident. (See stories on this page and page 8.)

by: STEVE KEEVER - A tree came crashing down in front of a residence on the corner of Northeast McFarlane Lane and Northeast Clemens Drive in Gateway on Sunday afternoon, but missed the house.The Agency Plains and Gateway areas sustained significant damage to crops, power poles, trees and wheel lines for irrigation. (See crop damage story on page 5.)

"There were 11 power poles taken out on Emerson, off Quaale," said Steve Keever, of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. "Basically, they were snapped off about five to six feet up."

The Gateway area lost power from the damage, but Central Electric had replaced the poles and power was restored by Monday.

Keever estimated that 25-30 trees were broken or uprooted in the Gateway area. "The whole root balls were flopped over," he said.

One farmer in the area lost about 100 pieces of wheel line, Keever noted. "They were blowing all over the place and twisted up. At Cherry, a wheel line blew across the highway and somebody hit it with their car during the rainstorm."

Aside from the lightning strike and accident, Keever said he hadn't heard any reports of other injuries.

by: STEVE KEEVER - A grain silo, owned by Paul and Louann Cowsill, of Gateway, was blown apart and scattered by the force of the storm on Sunday. The crumpled metal was located on Northeast McFarlane Lane.Brian Huff, chief of the Jefferson County Fire Department, said that one of the department's duty officers was on Dover Lane at Highway 97, south of Madras, with siren on and lights flashing, when he was struck by a vehicle. There were no injuries, but the other driver was cited.

Gordon Wood, wastewater operator for the city of Madras, said the city dealt with backed up storm drains from the one-half to one inch of rainfall.

"We had problems throughout town," he said. "The storm, with the high winds, blew a lot of debris around — leaves, branches, and in one case, pinecones. Those went over the top of our grates and kept the water from flowing in."

Wood and other city workers also dealt with trees that had large limbs broken off in roadways.

At the Madras Municipal Airport, which had just concluded the two-day Airshow of the Cascades, Rob Berg, manager, said there were gusts up to 77 mph, and quarter-sized hail. One small plane was overturned and destroyed.

"I've been here since 1977, and I've never seen hail that violent," said Berg, who was out trying to move aircraft during the storm. "It was literally beating us to death."

A power outage that affected 4,285 Pacific Power customers in the Culver and Crooked River Ranch areas started after 1:06 p.m., when a transmission line went out.

"We never really determined the cause," said Jan Mitchell, spokeswoman, noting that power was restored in the Culver area just after 4 p.m., and for remaining customers at 7:25 p.m.

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