Northeast storms cause lightning strike to steeple, killing man

NEW YORK -- A man caught out on the street during massive storms that tore through New York City and surrounding areas died Thursday night when a church steeple in Brooklyn was struck by lightning, causing scaffolding to collapse on him.

It was one of two deaths blamed on storms Thursday that thundered through the eastern edge of the country. They were preceded by hours of warnings from state and local officials who braced for a “derecho” similar to the devastating weather that struck Washington, D.C., last month. That storm left millions without power and killed 24 people.

In Pennsylvania, a 66-year-old woman died Thursday evening when a tree fell on her car during the storm. The National Weather Service said winds exceeded 60 mph in the Philadelphia region as the storms swept through and headed into New York.

A possible tornado was reported in the upstate New York town of Elmira. The steeple-related death occurred in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood; there, a 61-year-old man died when the scaffolding surrounding a church fell on top of him.


“I saw that the scaffolding was coming down,” said Nicola Wheir, who called 911, the city’s all-news television station NY1 reported. “I realized there was a man walking under the scaffolding at that moment. I wasn’t sure what hit him but the next thing I saw, he hit the ground.”

Friday morning, thousands were still without power. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo issued a statement saying utility crews had restored power to just over half of those affected by the storm, but that 49,600 people were still without electricity.

More storms were forecast Friday.


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