South Baltimore man fatally struck by lightning


A bolt of lightning struck and killed a South Baltimore man during yesterday afternoon's wind-whipped rainstorm, which had torn the roof off an East Baltimore house less than an hour earlier, officials said.

The storm dumped 1.2 inches of rain at Baltimore-Washington International Airport from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., caused traffic accidents statewide and stripped 19,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers of power, according to officials. About 1,200 remained without power last night.

Gene Steele, 35, of Bridgeview Road was standing under a tree inthe 900 block of Veronica Ave. about 3:30 p.m. when a lightning bolt struck the tree, then hit him and knocked him to the ground, according to Baltimore City Police Sgt. Larry Bray of the Southern District.

Quinton Carter, 24, said that just before the lightning struck he had gone over to where Mr. Steele was standing and suggested he come in from the rain.

"When [the lightning] hit him, his body shook," said Nicole Anderson, 21. "He was saying, 'Ow, ow,' and opening his hand and closing it. He fell on his face, then rolled over and moved his leg off the curb."

When a medic arrived, Mr. Steele was pronounced dead, Sergeant Bray said.

The lightning bolt left a soda can-sized hole of upturned earth near the tree.

Neighbors, who said Mr. Steele worked as a mechanic at Rufus Service Station on Cherry Hill Road, described him as a "nice guy."

A handful of deaths have been caused by lightning in the area since 1990 -- including Little League coach James Marc Rickels, 34, of Sykesville, who was struck and killed June 15.

About a half-hour before Mr. Steele was hit by lightning, heavy winds accompanying the storm ripped off the roof of a three-story house in the 3500 block of E. Baltimore St., and sent it flying onto North Conkling Street. It covered a whole block with black roofing paper and knocked over a street light, according to police and a city official.

City Building Inspector Robert Donald condemned the third floor of the building and some rooms on the second and first floors.

Second-floor tenant Billy Ray Taylor, 41, said that after a "big splash," some of his ceiling tiles fell and water poured into his bathroom and living room.

First-floor tenant John Ross said there was a hole in his ceiling and a bed was soaked.

"In high winds, we get this quite often, especially with old buildings," said Mr. Donald.

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