Significant damage to hydro grid in heavy storms (GALLERY)

(Submitted photo)

Frequent intense lightning and wind gusts in heavy thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon caused significant damage to the Sarnia hydro grid.

Bluewater Power President and CEO Janice McMichael-Dennis said about 5,000 customers were initially impacted.

“One of our substations actually have taken a direct lightning hit, that’s the one near Maxwell Street and Indian Road. It’s going to be a bit [of time] before we can get things under control there,” she said.

McMichael-Dennis said the utility and Sarnia fire were on scene at the substation.

She said the utility was also dealing with downed power lines and damaged trees.

“We are working on it, but certainly some fairly significant damage. Certainly, in my time at Bluewater Power I have never been involved in a situation where we’ve had a substation take a direct lightning hit like this, it’s very, very rare, but the guys are on it and are going to try to work their magic safely,” she said.

McMichael-Dennis said the substations are unmanned, so there have been no reported injuries following the lightning strike.

City Director of Engineering Mike Berkvens said torrential rain overloaded the sewers and flooded streets.

“With the rain we’ve experienced, our sewers are surcharged and a lot of the manhole lids are coming off. Until the rain lets up there is nothing we can do, but when the rain does let up, we will have crews working all night to bring up the flooded streets and attend to any areas that we need to,” he said. “We’re looking for people to stay off the roads at this time — there is lots of cars trying to go through the deep water, so if people can stay at home, or if you have to drive, please do so with caution.”

Remember to treat any intersections without working traffic signals as four way stops and proceed cautiously especially at major intersections.

Environment Canada elevated its severe thunderstorm watch to a warning at about 3:20 p.m. as a cluster of potentially severe storms approached from the west.

There was still the threat of storms Wednesday night and overnight.

-With files from Dave Dentinger and Colin Gowdy