As wind and heavy rain pounded Columbia County Monday afternoon, lightning froze the clocks inside the county’s hub for emergency response and communications at 5:46.
“That’s what time it hit,” county Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker said. “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 can be used as the center of communications and emergency response during a crisis.
The lightning strike damaged several clocks, phones, computers and radio consoles in the offices and the EOC, which includes numerous consoles, computers and a large wall-sized screen to view traffic camera feeds or other images associated with emergencies.
“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.
“It’s just irritating,” Tucker said of her frozen clock. “I live by that thing.”
The isolated storm dumped .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 EOC 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 her 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.
A county Traffic Engineering crew was working on the traffic cameras at the nearby intersection Tuesday morning, county Constriction and Maintenance Division Director Matt Schlachter said.
“It is very possible that it was a lightning strike,” Schlachter said.
County technicians are testing switches to see what can be easily repaired, but 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 same building.
As the day goes on, Tucker said she fully expects to be testing systems and finding new issues.
“We’ll probably come across some other things as we go through the day,” Tucker said.