Hard rain from a severe thunderstorm roared through Baton Rouge early Friday and caused headaches for morning commuters with power outages, school closures, street flooding and a building fire sparked by a direct lightning strike.
As of 6:45 p.m. Friday, Baton Rouge had recorded two fires — one at an office building off College Drive and the other at a house on Carlotta Street, almost 3 inches of rain, quarter-sized hail and downed trees but no injuries and no major accidents.
The rain is expected to continue all day Saturday, prompting some cancellations, closures and movement of events indoors.
Entergy spokeswoman Catherine Ward said about 80 customers in East Baton Rouge Parish were without power — 10 from the morning’s storm and another 70 who lost power after the afternoon storm as of Friday evening.
In Ascension Parish, about 15 customers total did not have power Friday evening but all power had been restored to customers in Livingston Parish, Ward said.
DEMCO spokesman David Latona said all Dixie Electric Membership Corp. or DEMCO customers in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston had power restored by 6:45 p.m.
When the storm first struck, Ward said, more than 4,000 customers in East Baton Rouge Parish lacked power.
Danielle Manning, National Weather Service meteorologist, said as of 4 p.m. Friday, Baton Rouge had received 2.97 inches of rain, along with some quarter-sized hail and downed trees.
She said Baton Rouge is expected to receive up to 1 more inch of rain from the system.
“That’s going to be more like an average amount. Individual areas can obviously receive significantly higher amounts,” she said, adding that depending on where the heaviest thunderstorms are, some areas could receive as much as 2 or 3 inches of rain.
A flash flood watch is in effect for all of southeast Louisiana, except for the immediate coast, through tomorrow night, Manning said.
The large front, extending all the way into Texas and central Arkansas, is expected to move in a southeastern direction very slowly until late Saturday night.
By then, it should move a little faster, and be out of the area, Manning said.
Earlier Friday afternoon, a fire broke out at a house on Carlotta Street after a tree limb fell on a powerline. The fire spread onto the second floor and the attic.
The fallen limb pulled the power line away from the house, bending the pole on top that connected the power line to the house, Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Curt Monte said. Firefighters call that pole the weatherhead.
A power surge caused by the bent pole electrified the house and when the now-exposed line touched the house, the fire began, Monte said.
Firefighters arrived at 1:21 p.m., four minutes after receiving the call, and found the second story was in flames, Monte said.
They kept the fire from spreading to the first floor, which received only water damage, and extinguished the fire at 1:31 p.m., Monte said.
No one lives at the house and the people who own it live next door and use 3233 Carlotta for storage, Monte said.
The fire caused about $40,000 in damage and no injuries were reported, Monte said.
The storm moved through the area between 5 a.m. and 5:45 a.m., about the same time that firefighters were called out to the Louisiana Realtors Association building at 4639 Bennington Ave., Monte said.
The west side of the building off College Drive was completely consumed with flames by the time firefighters arrived and the roof caved in soon after, Monte said. The blaze was contained to the west side of the building while the rest received extensive smoke and water damage. The fire was brought under control around 7:28 a.m. and Bennington Avenue was reopened to traffic at 9:30 a.m. Many streets and roads in East Baton Rouge Parish quickly flooded.
“There were a ton of reports of road and streets flooding this morning,” Baton Rouge police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said Friday afternoon. However, no streets had to be closed.
The midday break in the rain helped with street drainage, McKneely said.
Susan Nelson, spokeswoman for the parish school system, said Entergy was not able to restore power to Riveroaks Elementary early Friday and parents had to pick up their children at there or at Broadmoor High School, where students were transported.
Episcopal High School on its website also announced its closure due to power outage but the private school allowed Advancement Placement exams in its Alumni House to occur.
The following are weekend events changed due to inclement weather:
Events moved indoors
- Baton Rouge Greek Festival from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium, 102 France St.
- Team Automotive Group Sportsplex grand opening from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at BREC’s Perkins Road Community Park, 7122 Perkins Road.
- Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network 20-year celebration 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run.
- Doug Williams Football Camp, Dance and Cheer Clinic at BREC’s Memorial Stadium.
- “Meet Your Neighbor Day” at BREC’s Howell Park.
- BREC’s Liberty Lagoon at 111 Lodbell Blvd. is closed this weekend.