CONNEAUT – Lightning damaged one of the blades on the gigantic wind turbine on Conneaut’s lakefront early Thursday morning, knocking the big generator out of commission, officials said.
Composite material that coats the wooden blades was splintered by the bolt. Pieces of the material were jarred loose and fell to the ground as the blades kept spinning, said City Manager Timothy Eggleston.
“The tip of the blade got blown off,” he said. “(The blade) was still turning, and pieces were coming off.”
Lightning struck the turbine shortly after midnight, pelting trucks parked below the machine with debris, according to various reports. Wastewater plant personnel successfully shut down the turbine a few hours later, safety personnel said.
An access road to the Pittsburgh and Conneaut Dock Co.’s limestone dock, next to the turbine, was closed to traffic temporarily as a safety precaution.
NexGen Energy of Boulder, Colo., owner of the turbine, has been contacted, Eggleston said. It’s believed the blade will have to be replaced, officials said.
The turbine generates about 20 percent of the power used by the sewage treatment plant, officials have said. The loss of the electricity it provides will not affect the plant’s operation, Eggleston said.
“Everything’s fine,” he said.
The 400-kilowatt turbine is the second of two erected by NexGen, which became operational in early 2010. The first, a larger 600-kilowatt machine, sits at Conneaut Middle School but has worked only sporadically because of hydraulic problems.
The lightning strike occurred during a violent storm that lashed parts of the county with heavy rain. Nearly 3 inches of rain fell within a three-hour span Thursday morning at a weather station monitored by Ron Coursen, National Weather Service observer. The downpour overwhelmed drainage systems, flooding some roads and intersections, officials said.
Some 8.6 inches of rain has fallen in August, Coursen said. “That’s a lot of water,” he said.
As of mid-afternoon Thursday, dozens of county residents were without power thanks to the storm. Outages were reported in Ashtabula, Conneaut, Geneva, Jefferson, Roaming Shores, Rock Creek, Unionville and Austinburg Township.
Ashtabula Public Works employees labored for eight hours Thursday to clean up the branches and large limbs of an uprooted tree on Foster Avenue. Employee Henry Henton wore heavy gloves as he tossed the smaller branches into a pile, the overturned tree ripped from the ground on the hillside above him.
“While this tree isn’t on city property and though the city does not own the tree, it is our responsibility to clear the branches and limbs and debris from the road and the sidewalk, for safety,” Henton said.
The road remained closed Thursday night, and Henton said he believes wind doomed the large tree, which was rooted at the crest of the small embankment.
“With no ground to root into on the one side, the wind just took hold of it and pushed it right over,” he said.
Thursday morning brought some flooding to the Geneva area, as two motorists became stranded in standing floodwater.
A woman dialed 911 on Thursday morning when she became stuck in her car on Depot Street, her vehicle disabled by the floodwater, Geneva dispatch records show.
A man was stuck similarly in floodwater on Route 20, near the Northridge Yamaha Suzuki dealership, but was able to get his vehicle moving by himself, Geneva dispatch records show.
No one was injured, dispatch records show.
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