Home catches fire after series of lightning strikes in New Jersey

RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (WABC) -- A New Jersey home was badly damaged by fire after a series of lightning strikes hit the area, just one of many incidents as wild storms hit the Tri-State area overnight Monday.

The fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. on Ridge Road in Rutherford, but luckily, the family was able to escape unharmed.

Still, the destruction was visible with a large burned-out hole in the roof.

"Everything is charred," said Simone Virani, the daughter of the homeowner. "I can stand on the (top floor) and look outside, it's completely open."

It's a wonder the three-story house didn't burn to the ground.

"It was less than a millisecond, and everything was up in flames," Virani said. "And it hit all the way down to the, it cracked the whole side of the house. It went from the top floor, it hit the roof, and went all the way down."

People nearby said they saw the flash of lightning and their houses shook.

"It was the loudest thing I've every heard," neighbor Joseph Sista said. "I live right next door, so it struck maybe like 100 feet from my house."

The homeowners and neighbors went running for cover.

"The neighbor was sleeping on the second floor, and the lightning struck on the third, top floor right above her," Sista said.

The fire went to three alarms.

"You can see that the top of the house is charred," neighbor Lorraine Russo said. "It really looks like the upper part of the house was taken out."

Two firefighters and a police officer were treated for minor smoke inhalation.

Authorities are investigating whether lightning caused the blaze, as the homeowners and neighbors suspect.

Elsewhere in the area, whipping winds and torrential rain flooded roadways and brought down trees and power lines. A tornado watch was also in effect until 7 a.m. for some parts of the region.

The storms also caused the roof to collapse at an apartment complex in Camden, though no injuries were reported.

Rail service on New Jersey Transit's North Jersey Coast Line was temporarily suspended in both directions because of a downed tree near Middletown.

More than 20,000 utility customers lost power when the storms hit, though crews were able to quickly restore service to most customers.

----------
* More New Jersey news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.