GARY, Ind. (AP) — Severe thunderstorms raked much of the northern half of Indiana on Thursday, packing lightning blamed for two deaths in Gary and fires across the state. The storms also brought heavy rains that broke a record in South Bend.
The Merrillville Post-Tribune and WLS-TV reported a man working on a Gary billboard died at a hospital after being struck by lightning.
WLS also reported a house fire believed caused by a lightning strike killed a second man and injured a child. Gary Fire Department Chief of Operations Mark Jones said firefighters found a 42-year-old man and a 9-month-old child in the house suffering from smoke inhalation.
"Once the initial company got into the structure, they found heavy flames, and conducted a search where they found two victims," Jones said.
The man died at a hospital and the child was airlifted to Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago.
Authorities did not immediately release the names of all three victims.
Lightning strikes also were suspected in fires in Plymouth, about 20 miles south of South Bend, and in the central Indiana cities of Carmel, New Castle and Elwood.
The National Weather Service said South Bend set a rainfall record for the date with 3.44 inches, breaking the old mark of 2.24 inches set in 1960. It said a trained weather spotter in nearby Elkhart measured nearly 3 inches of rain.
The St. Joseph County Emergency Management Agency made sandbags available at several locations amid a warning of possible flooding.
A fresh round of storms hit northern Indiana Thursday evening, spawning a funnel cloud near the town of Earl Park, about 60 miles south of Gary, the weather service said.
Lightning strikes earlier in the day were suspected in fires that caused heavy damage to a restaurant in New Castle, destroyed a house in Elwood and damaged a house and restaurant in Carmel.