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Lightning strikes in Lodi, triggering power outage

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Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 10:00 pm

A lightning strike left much of Lodi without power for about 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon, leaving some classrooms and stores dark and paralyzing computerized cash registers.

The 1:03 p.m. outage happened when lightning hit near Cherokee and Kettleman Lane, said Kevin Riedinger, utility service operator for Lodi Electric. A total of 9,607 customers were without power for 27 minutes, he said.

Strong winds and rain combined with lightning and thunder, which was heard rumbling through Lodi. Electric Utility Director Allan Vallow was driving on Kettleman Lane when the power went out, and he said the storm was providing quite the "light show."

Elsewhere, lightning partially burnt a palm tree in Lockeford, and crews in Clements battled flooding.

In Lodi, businesses in the shopping centers at Lower Sacramento Road and Kettleman Lane went dark, including Wal-Mart and Target. Mike Green, the manager of the Radio Shack on Kettleman, said he had to resort to using duplicate checks and an adding machine because the store's computerized checkout system was down for a half-hour.

"Everything we do is computerized," Green said.

The work wasn't done when the power came back on, either. The employees at the electronics store had to reboot all of the computers, set up the television displays and reprogram the store's digital alarm clocks.

Stylists at the Supercuts on West Kettleman Lane had customers in their chairs when the power went out, said manager Celia Galvan. Fortunately, there was no need for electronic clippers or hair dryers, she said.

"We finished them," Galvan said on Tuesday. "We didn't need the clippers, so that's a good thing."

The area affected was south of Lodi Avenue between Lower Sacramento Road and Church Street and also south of Kettleman Lane between Church Street and Cherokee Lane, he said. That area gets its power from a substation near Ham and Kettleman Lanes.

When lightning hit a power line that feeds into the substation, the breakers opened to prevent any more power from coming in.

Because lightning strikes quickly and often leaves little evidence behind, crews had to check power lines to make sure there hadn't been a vehicle collision or other accident, Riedinger said.

The lightning was part of a powerful storm that moved through the area, causing water to run over sidewalks and into front yards, said Steve Winkler, deputy director of the San Joaquin County Public Works Department.

Except for the power outage, the only storm-related troubles in Lodi were reports of litter being blown by the wind, said George Bradley, the city's street superintendent.

No car accidents were reported, though some stoplights stopped working.

Meanwhile, some 800 Lodi Middle School students were left in the dark for as much as 45 minutes, said Ana Guzman, the Ham Lane school's bilingual assistant.

At nearby Lodi Memorial Hospital, some buildings were without power, though the emergency room has generators that turn on within eight seconds so that patients can still be treated, spokeswoman Carol Farron said.

In other parts of town, including Lodi High School, the library and the courts, lights flickered briefly. Tokay High School was without lights for about 15 minutes.

Power was restored at 1:30 p.m., electric officials said, though at least one business still had troubles.

Two hours later, Lodi resident Anna Cuevas was shopping at Food-4-Less on West Kettleman Lane and the power kept going out.

"They finally brought their flashlights and kicked everyone out," she said.

Though most people are inconvenienced by such power outages, Green believes they might be a good thing for Radio Shack and other electronics stores. That's when everybody realizes that the batteries in their flashlights and generators might not be working properly.

"It reminds people to keep them (up-to-date)," Green said.

News-Sentinel staff writers Sara Cardine and Greg Kane contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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