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Electrical wires create glass-like mass after storm

This glass-like material formed when a tree snapped at West Edgerton Avenue and South 113th Street and collapsed electric power lines into the soil. The extreme heat caused sand in the soil to become glass-like, officials said.

This glass-like material formed when a tree snapped at West Edgerton Avenue and South 113th Street and collapsed electric power lines into the soil. The extreme heat caused sand in the soil to become glass-like, officials said. Photo By Michael Martin

July 1, 2014

Hales Corners — A powerful storm that occurred last month left the village with an unusual relic.

A glasslike slag, or mass, was discovered by local fire fighters in the southeast corner of West Edgerton Avenue and South 113th Street, where a large cottonwood tree had snapped during a storm June 15 or 16, causing electrical lines to collapse and then spark on soil, which naturally contains sand and other minerals.

Sand, when under extreme heat from lightning, or electric lines in this instance, can melt from the drastic temperature change and then cool into a glass piece.

The "homemade" glass, as Director of Public Works Michael Martin described it, is not a strong glass because of impurities in the soil, but it is "glass-like nonetheless," he said.

The glass was measured at about 6 inches long, 4 inches wide and 3 inches high.

"The size of half a cantaloupe," Martin said.

Firefighters unearthed the glass-like sample, which was visible from the ground's surface, after responding to the snapped cottonwood tree. Three other trees had reportedly collapsed during the storm and had blocked the road in some way or another.

"This was by far the worst one," Martin said. The cottonwood was 5.5 feet in diameter.

The glass mass was presented to the police and fire commission June 19 and mentioned to the board of trustees June 23.

"It looked like a piece of art," said Village Trustee Mary Bennett at the Monday, June 30, meeting.

Martin said he is now holding on to the sample: "I'm using it as a reminder to everyone that when the wires come down, the best advice is to run away and protect yourself as quickly as you can."

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