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"The house shook and the living room lit up like strobe lights"

Lightning Strikes a Home in Bethel, Causing Outages

As a storm passed through Bethel Monday morning June 25, a loud explosion was heard by residents in the southern section of Bethel. 

Lighting struck a home located at 10 Sunset Hill, carving a deep trench in the earth about 50 feet long, blowing out all the dirt, then exploding blocks and other debris out of the corner of the garage, some of which landed half way down the driveway.  The trench then continued sporadically around the back yard, carving more holes in the ground. More damage was also done to the home itself.

"It appears to have struck the underground canine fence wire," said Thomas Galliford, Director of the Bethel Office Emergency Management, as he inspected the damage leading to the home. "We are not sure where it hit, but it was definitely a lightning strike."

The lightning strike scorched the siding and the Bethel Fire Department had already been to the scene, Galliford said. "They used a thermal imaging camera to make sure there were no hot spots."

The strike also burned electrical outlets on the interior section of the home addition, that is presently under construction.  Galliford pointed to the burnt outlets with his flashlight.  He also pointed to burnt extension cord pieces and said it was the cord that connected the underground fence system.

Guy and Margaret Zegarelli were in the home babysitting for their granddaughter Haley at the time the lightning struck. "It sure was lightning, it blew me right out of my living room chair," said Guy Zegarelli.  "It was an act of God no one got hurt."

"Two minutes earlier my grandchild was on my lap playing right near there,"  said Margaret Zegarelli.  Home owners Brian and Tracey Cote, parents of Haley, were both at work, she said.

A CL&P truck was parked up the road from the home. Worker Al McConnell said "I had to disconnect the power because the outlets got burnt up in the house.  They [home owners] have to get an electrician to come and check it now."  He also said "This is our third house hit today.  Two in Ridgefield, this one in Bethel, and our next stop is in Sandy Hook, and I guarantee it is from lightning."
 
Comcast line techs Cliff Schirmer and Fritz Lapera were on the scene, parked at the intersection of Marywood and Sunset roads, working up high, on a pole. Schirmer said they suspected that the area cable outage was caused by the lightning strike on that house.  They said they've had other repair calls today in Bethel, Danbury and Ridgefield.

Closer to Bethel town center near Greenwood Avenue, an AT&T Premise Technician Lou Masi was working on Ballfield Road and was unaware of the outage.  "I'm just doing some installation," he said.

Tracy Rogalski of the Bethel Public Works Department, Engineer's office, was unaware of any outages or lightning strikes.  Director of Public Works Andrew Morosky was unavailable for comment.

Amanda Bie, who lives on Hoyt's Hill in Bethel, was in the CVS parking lot and said, "The house shook and the living room lit up like strobe lights."

Chris Barnabo June 26, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I'm glad to hear that nobody was hurt! And thanks for a thorough report - so often we see articles on home disasters such as fires that remain incomplete (i.e. "cause under investigation" but never a followup). They always leave me wondering: are others at risk of the same problem? Is there something the homeowner or installer could have done to prevent the problem in the first place? A nice followup to this article would be - are canine fences prone to this sort of strike? Is the damage to the house typical, or was there something about the installation that made the damage worse (or lighter!) than normal? In other words - for other folks who have this type of fence, what can they do, if anything, to minimize the risk of a similar incident?
Paula Antolini June 26, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Great suggestions Chris, and thanks for the compliment. I just researched this further and found that there is electrical surge protection available for in-ground fence transmitters, that is supposed to protect against dangerous lightning strikes. They plug directly into an outlet. However, I do not know how effective these are and I am not I endorsing them. Also, it is possible that wet saturated ground contributes to lightning connecting to the electricity. Best to disconnect (unplug) the canine fence system during storms, for safety.
Paula Antolini June 26, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Regarding damage to the house, and how the in-ground fence was actually installed, that would probably require an investigation of the property, building quality, and ground installation, by a team of experts, for answers.

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