Lightning causes several city fires

June 2, 2010 (CHICAGO) An Irving Park garage and the two cars inside were fried by that lightning bolt, which most likely hit the transformer above and the garage itself around 3:30 a.m.

When the sun came up, George Arias stared at the charred vehicles. He said he's not upset, rather, relieved he has insurance and grateful that nobody was injured.

"I heard a big lightning strike. Next thing you know, I heard something go, you know, and 30 seconds later I smelled burning. Go to the garage, and next thing you know the whole garage is on fire, and my car is in there," said Arias.

Arias said with the odds of that happening, he decided to buy a lottery ticket Wednesday morning.

The strong storms lit up the sky all morning. In the Irving Park neighborhood, lightning struck a two-flat in the 3900-block of Bernard. Firefighters put out the flames in the rain. There were several lightning-strike reports, but no one has been injured. A West Town fire tore up a roof at a three-flat in the 900-block of North Ashland.

"I heard a loud sonic boom. I'm assuming it's another thunderstorm, and I started smelling something funny. I thought maybe somebody was cooking something and burnt it, and the smell continued," said Mark Shalme.

Most of the rain, heavy thunderstorms and downed power lines were located in the city and south suburbs.

Cars and trucks were hydroplaning and zooming through the high waters on the Eisenhower during Wednesday's morning commute. There are reports of flooding on the expressways and ramps.

The early morning storms caused some flooding in west suburban Elmhurst at I-290 at the Lake Street ramp. That ramp was closed because of high standing water. Morning rush hour traffic was slow-going in most of the area.

A south suburban Riverdale man died after reportedly driving a car about 70 mph in the rain when he crashed into a pole on the South Side around 2:50 a.m. Wednesday. Heavy storms and bad road conditions also caused a juvenile male motorist to drive off the road and into a ditch around 4 a.m. Wednesday on I-55 near southwest suburban Indian Head Park.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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