UPDATE: WR buildings damaged in severe storms

A city police officer escaped serious injury when a bolt of lightning struck parking space No. 388 at McConnell-Talbert Stadium near his patrol car as thunderstorms ripped through the area Monday night.

Officer Brandon Smith, 27, was checked out at Houston Medical Center as a precaution, said Warner Robins police Maj. John Wagner.

Smith was determined to be okay, though he complained of pain in his side after the lightning bolt tore a big hole in the asphalt near where he was seated in his patrol car in the stadium's parking lot off South Davis Drive, Wagner said.

The patrol car didn't fare as well. It was sent to the shop after the dashboard lights "all started coming on in strange and different ways," Wagner said.

The storm also produced high winds, which yanked off the facade at Town and Country Motorsports and tore down the concrete walls of the Audio Shop. Both business are on Carl Vinson Parkway near Watson Boulevard.

"It looks like the wind just bear-hugged the back of the building and worked its way around," said Brenda Merrill, bookkeeper for the Audio Shop. "It looks like lightning hit the building or a small tornado."

Watching the store's video of the storm was surreal, she said. "It's eerie," Merrill said. "It shows a bunch of wind and rain. All of a sudden, it goes black."

The business suffered water damage and three of the employees spent the night at the site, Merrill said.

At Town & Country, the facade was twisted and bent. Some inventory was damaged by rain, said office manager Shannon Peavy, but she considered the damage minor compared what happened across the street to the Audio Shop.

The storm also claimed the roof of a mobile home on Feagin Mill Road, and the roof of a mobile classroom at the Hodac social service agency at 2762 Watson Blvd., said Houston County Emergency Management Agency Director Jimmy Williams.

Strong winds also ripped off the traffic light at Carl Vinson and Watson Boulevard, Wagner said.

During or immediately after the storm swept through town, several traffic lights were without power or had to be reset, he said.

City Hall was closed Tuesday after the air conditioning system went out, possibly from a lightning strike during the storm, Wagner said. "They're about 99 percent sure it was lightning," he said.

Flint Energies spokesman Jimmy Autry said 3,210 of Flint's members lost electrical power. Only 38 remained without electricity as of 7:30 a.m. and less than 15 were without power by noon, he said.

Power crews worked through the night on downed lines, blown fuses and other issues, with outages mostly on the north side of Warner Robins and the area near Holiday Riviera mobile home park, he said.

The severe storms cut through southern Bibb and north Houston counties starting about 7 p.m. Monday, dumping 1.62 inches of rain at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and hail of 1.75 inches in Centerville and 1 inch in Warner Robins.

Staff writers Liz Fabian and Wayne Crenshaw contributed to this report.

Read more of this story in Wednesday's Telegraph.