By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A violent thunderstorm blew a roofer from a building in Havre Wednesday, damaged property and knocked out power across the entire city.
Power was out to 7,000 customers for 38 minutes after branches downed a power line, NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said today.
The storm moved through Havre shortly after 3:30 p.m. before progressing into northeastern Blaine County and Phillips County, the National Weather Service said. Havre reported wind gusts up to 55 mph.
When the storm began, roofers from Hi-Line Roofing were working on the Married Student Housing Building at Montana State University-Northern. A gust of wind sent Scott Pizzini off the side of the roof.
"There was no warning at all," said Hi-Line Roofing owner Bill Welch. "The gust, as I understand it, was reported at 70 plus. It was enough, it took 5-gallon buckets full of tools." Welch was en route to the site when the accident occurred and arrived shortly afterward.
Pizzini was taken by ambulance to Northern Montana Hospital. He was listed in satisfactory condition today, hospital spokeswoman Kathie Newell said.
"There were no major injuries," Welch said. "They said they would let him out in a day or two. When you take one of these falls, they want to check you over."
An ambulance also responded to a call that a van had been struck by lightning, the Havre Fire Department said. Neither of the two people in the vehicle - a woman and child - were injured. The vehicle had been parked on Second Street West near Kmart.
"It didn't appear the vehicle had been struck by lightning," fire Capt. Joe Parenteau said.
A downed power line in the 100 block of Second Street West contributed to the power outage across Havre, which also caused traffic lights to go out.
"It turns out we had another line out for routine maintenance," Rapkoch said. The outage on two lines caused loss of power to all three power substations in Havre.
"The branches have been removed," Rapkoch said.
When the storm struck, Anna Brumley, who operates the Wahkpa Chu'gn Bison Kill Site with her husband, John Brumley, left the tourist attraction's office trailer to close the site. When she returned to the trailer, she found it had blown on its side, Brumley said. This morning the couple will have the trailer righted and will check for damage.
"I'll give tours today, if anyone wants," she said.
The trailer is owned by the Brumleys, and is not insured. They do not expect any major damage, however.
Car windows broke at two of the dealerships in town. Pat McCarthy of Northstar Dodge reported one window broken on a minivan.
"I think the wind picked something up and got it," he said.
At Havre Ford, 12 rear windows were cracked by the heavy winds.
"The windows were all facing the same side," said Steve Steinmetz, general manager. "It'll probably go through insurance. They'll all get fixed one way or another."
During Wednesday's power outage, the Havre Police Department activated its generator, restoring power to the building, but found that phone lines were still down, Assistant Police Chief George Tate said today.
Calls to 911 always go to the Hill County sheriff's department, which can radio police officers directly or forward phone calls to the Police Department.
While the phones were down, the sheriff's dispatcher radioed police about any emergencies.
The police asked the radio stations to broadcast a new number for all nonemergency phone calls, directing callers to use the sheriff department's general number. Phones were down at the Police Department for half an hour, Tate said.