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Duluth firefighters work at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the roof of a building at 1432 E. Superior St. housing apartments and businesses, where a lightning strike destroyed a chimney and started a fire on the roof that was quickly extinguished. The strike also caused a hole in the roof during the height of the storm, allowing rain to get in and cause water damage in the building. (Andrew Krueger / akrueger@duluthnews.com)

Strong storms rake region; lightning strikes spark fires in Duluth

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A line of strong and, at times, severe thunderstorms swept across much of the Northland on Sunday evening, bringing torrential rain as well as lightning that sparked several fires in Duluth.

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The Duluth Fire Department reported three separate incidents involving lightning strikes in just over an hour, authorities said:

  • The first, at 6124 Greene St. in West Duluth at about 8:45 p.m., involved a lightning strike that knocked out power but did not cause a fire. 
  • Firefighters next responded at 9:37 p.m. to a three-story building at 1432 E. Superior St. housing apartments and businesses, where a lightning strike destroyed a chimney and started a fire on the roof that was quickly extinguished. The strike also caused a large hole in the roof during the height of the storm, allowing rain to get in and cause "extensive" water damage throughout the building, officials said. Damage is estimated at $75,000.
  • The third lightning incident, at about 9:55 p.m., was at a home at 328 W. Owatonna St. in the Woodland neighborhood, where lightning struck the chimney, caused a large hole in the roof and started a fire in a second-floor bedroom. Damage is estimated at $40,000.

No one was injured in any of those lightning strikes.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for the Duluth, Superior and Cloquet areas overnight as heavy rain fell for several hours. News Tribune readers reported street flooding at various locations in Duluth on Sunday night.

A Western Lake Superior Sanitary District rain gauge in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood showed rainfall in excess of 2 inches an hour in parts of Duluth between about 9 and 10 p.m. For a list of rain totals, click here.

The Weather Service also issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Twin Ports for a time because of a threat of damaging winds.

Minnesota Power’s online outage map indicated more than 1,900 customers without power as of 10 p.m. Sunday, with most of those in West Duluth. Those outages were repaired by early Monday morning.

Before the storms reached the Northland, they prompted tornado warnings in central Minnesota. Just after 6 p.m. Sunday, trained weather spotters reported a possible tornado touchdown and hail nearly the size of tennis balls a few miles northwest of Milaca.

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