Lightning strike damages Columbia County emergency response center phones, computers

Columbia County Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker stands by the clock in her Evans office that froze at 5:46 p.m. Monday, when lightning struck a nearby power and damaged Tucker's office clocks, computers, telephones and radios.

A lightning strike during Monday’s late afternoon storm sent a charge through electrical lines that damaged equipment at Columbia County’s emergency response center.


“That’s what time it hit,” county Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker said as she stood in front of a clock at the center that was frozen at 5:46. “It came in through our electrical lines.”

The lightning damaged several clocks, phones, computers and radio consoles inside the building on Ronald Reagan Drive at Evans Town Center Boulevard. It houses Tucker’s division offices, the 311 center and staff, and the Emergency Operations Center. The center, which includes numerous consoles, computers and a wall-sized screen to view traffic camera feeds or other images associated with emergencies, can be used as the base of communications and emergency response during a crisis.

“Not all of the phones and not all of the computers were affected,” Tucker said. “If we had a major situation that was going to be long-term in scope, then we would really feel the impact. As it is right now, even with something minor, we’ll be able to manage. And the day-to-day (operations), we’ll be able to manage.”

The isolated storm dumped 0.38 of an inch of rain at the center in less than 30 minutes. The storm drenched an isolated part of Evans, but caused no other damage aside from a single downed tree.

No one was inside the center at 5:46 p.m., when lightning likely struck a nearby power pole and came into the building.

“Every bell and whistle and siren in here probably made noise,” Tucker said.

The damage wasn’t noticed until Tuesday morning, when Tucker said she and other employees noticed several of the hard-wired synchronized clocks stopped and computers malfunctioning.

County technicians are testing switches to see what can be easily repaired, and Tucker said she’s already filed an insurance claim for the damage.

The lightning didn’t damage the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office substation, which occupies the other side of the building.



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