Sheriff’s Office struck by lightning

DAMAGES exceeding $100,000 affected the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office as a result of two lightning strikes, Sheriff Charles R. Black Jr. told the county commissioners Monday.

Storm-related problems also caused flooding in the police department and utility office in Woodsfield’s municipal building and caused problems with equipment in several offices in the Monroe County Courthouse.

Equipment was “fried” because of the strikes, Black told the commissioners Monday. He said the problems at the sheriff’s office began with a direct lightning strike Friday about 4 p.m., and another occurred Saturday around noon.

The tower located beside the sheriff’s office was hit by lightning. This isn’t first time that the tower has been a lightning target.

In June of 2011, the tower was struck twice by lightning. Black at that time said it was the fourth time the tower had been hit, and the two earlier strikes were in the 1990s and 2002. The sheriff’s office during the earlier strikes didn’t have as much electronic equipment as it does now and in 2011 as more equipment was added because of the 911 emergency system.

Black told the commissioners Monday that surge protection had been installed, but obviously, it didn’t work.

Phil Keevert, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency, said upgrading had been done at the sheriff’s office after the 2011 problems in an effort to counteract the lightning problems.

The recent lightning problems “took out a lot of equipment again” and it was necessary to move for back-up to the 911 center, the emergency operations center, according to Keevert.

“We’ve moved back to the sheriff’s office as of last night, but are still running on minimal service,” Keevert said Monday. After mentioning the equipment problems, he said it could be a week to two weeks before full service is restored.

Black said the sheriff’s office won’t be able to house prisoners in the jail until Wednesday or Thursday.

The sheriff reported 10 computers and one server were fried during the lightning strike, broadband is down and programming was affected. Also damaged were laptop computers, voice recorders, Xerox copiers, the interview room camera system and telephone systems. Damages in the jail itself included a computer, fire alarm system, cameras and security doors.

Commissioners said storm-related equipment damages occurred in the recorder’s office, probate court, clerk of courts office and the commissioners’ office itself.

Keevert said water from a vacant lot north of Woodsfield’s municipal building flooded the police department and utility office in the basement of the municipal building during the bad storm Friday. During the flooding, water reportedly was ankle deep in the basement.

“Most of it’s cleaned up,” said Keevert. Cleanup work began Friday, and work was being done on the outside of the building Monday in an effort to remedy the problem.

Road problems and downed trees also occurred during the storms Friday and Saturday, according to Keevert.

“It was something – it hit hard,” he added.

As a result of earlier lightning problems at the sheriff’s office, there have been discussions about attempting to relocate the tower.

After the 2011 strikes, an engineer checked over the tower in regard to grounding and lightning protection. At that time, Black said in addition to “frying” electronic equipment, the lightning strikes had weakened equipment and could cause more problems in the future.

In June 2011, it also was necessary to house prisoners elsewhere because of the problems.

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