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Lightning strikes again

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By Joel Fickel

Residents and workers in downtown Taylorsville had the scare of a lifetime last week when lightning struck First Baptist Church, temporarily knocking out power in many parts of the city and producing a startling thunderclap.

“I thought somebody had dropped a bomb,” said Susan Collins, who was working in the office of The Spencer Magnet on Thursday afternoon as sunlight began disappearing behind ominous storm clouds.

The lightning bolt struck at approximately 3:30 p.m. and was followed by a downpour of rain and hail that was both brief and intense. Collins said that she could scarcely remember hearing a louder burst of thunder before that day.

“It was one of (those bolts) that makes you ‘jump out of your skin.’”

Melissa Tindle, a billing associate at Creekside Family Medical, and her friend and coworker, Tracy, had just gotten into a car that was near the church when the lightning struck. The two women screamed when they simultaneously heard the thunder and were engulfed by light. Tindle compared the moment to seeing the blinding blue light of a welding flash.

While some Creekside workers were excited by the storm, Tindle said her experience with it was anything but pleasant.

“It was too close and personal for me…I’ve never been that close to lightning.”

Once the subsequent pelt of precipitation had stopped, curious townspeople emerged, wondering whether their office or house had been struck.

Firefighters arrived promptly at First Baptist as a very thin layer of gray smoke began issuing from the roof of the building that holds Sunday school classes and fellowship meetings.

First Baptist member Janet Barnett had arrived at the church just after the lighting struck. No one inside decided to evacuate, even after Barnett spoke to a custodian who had been inspecting air conditioning units when it struck. 

“She said it came in through the window and that she saw balls of fire travel down the wall.”

According to Barnett, the church was actually hit twice, the second bolt coming through the front office. Still, no injuries were reported.

When firefighters arrived, Barnett accompanied them while they inspected “every crook and cranny” of the building using a Thermal Imaging Camera. This device is designed to detect abnormal shifts in temperature inside walls and other obscure places.

Miraculously, no abnormality was found. Neither was any damage. Phones and electricity were back up as quickly as they were knocked out.

For many members of First Baptist Church, the risk of fire is a scary subject. Some years ago, there had been a fire caused by Christmas candles.

This also wasn’t the church’s first encounter with lightning. Another bolt disabled the PA system several years ago.

“Lightning seems to love our church,” she said, jokingly. “What is God trying to tell us? What am I missing here?”

Still, Barnett is counting her blessings.

“It’s a praise that nothing went down and no damage (was sustained).”

The Spencer Magnet office, however, was not lucky enough to be eluded by electronic chaos. The following day was a frustrating one for staff and repairmen as both tried to correct persistent problems with phones, Internet, and air conditioning.

“My husband used to say that if you get a direct hit by lightening…it doesn’t matter what kind of (surge protection) you have…lighting does the weirdest things,” said Collins, Magnet circulation manager.

However,  Collins counted herself lucky that the lightning struck on a Thursday and not a Tuesday. Tuesdays at the newspaper are spent busily assembling and editing the newspaper for its Wednesday morning release. 

Fire Chief Nathan Nation said other parts of the county were affected by the electrical storm – hay on fire, trees down, etc. – but that no injuries or serious damages were reported that day and thankfully so.