Lightning strike

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:46

    Vernon-Lightning struck a power line on Rt. 94 near the Sammis farmstand, just south of Great Gorge Village last Thursday afternoon, creating an electrical blackout from the condos through the McAfee section of Vernon. Cars slowed and took turns crossing the routes 94 and 517 intersection as they realized that the traffic light was not working, and most area businesses were powerless for about an hour. McAfee post office workers were unable to use their computers to serve customers, but backup emergency lights allowed people to see and access their mailboxes. A JCP&L/First Energy crew was able to restore power to the area while they continued to repair the line. According to one crewmember, who declined to give his name, the power line had been struck by lightning, severing the line and the electrical flow instantly. He said that they could determine the cause of the damage from the way the line was cut clean. "It sliced it like a pair of scissors," the worker said. JCP&L was unable to provide statistics on the number of times lightning has struck local power lines, but the crewmember thought the area seemed especially lightning prone. "Vernon does seem to get hit more than most areas," he said. Sussex County has certainly weathered an abundance of strong storms recently. Numerous thunderstorms, hailstorms, and even a funnel cloud n the precurser to a tornado n near High Point have struck the area since June 1, but Nick Stefano of the Sussex County Weather Network says that the county is not particularly vulnerable. "I think it's just a matter of perception," he said, regarding residents' suspicion that Sussex storms are more severe or more frequent than surrounding areas. Stefano said that the topography of the region is not extreme enough to cause the mountain effect that impacts ranges such as the Cascades or Rockies. "Lets face it, there are buildings in Manhattan that have a higher elevation than some of our mountains," Stefano said. Roy Miller of the National Weather Service in Mt. Holly, NJ, agreed. "We're in pretty much one of the safest areas, when it comes to lightning," he said. "Anywhere in the northeast, really, compared to places like Florida or the midwest that have these incredibly frequent and powerful storms," he said. Miller said that heat and humidity combine like a generator to form electrical storms, and these factors are both more prevalent and more extreme in the southern states. "Usually, you'll have more lightning on humid days," said Stefano. "The more humid the air, the more likely it is that you're going to see lightning." The season's hottest and most humid days are yet ahead of us, and the storms surely won't be far behind.