If you are like me, you’ve grown up hearing the age old adage that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.
By Jordan Wright
For the DC Herald
While that may be true, apparently schools are exempt from that law of physics. During the thunderstorm on the night of Monday, June 1, the Killdeer Public School was hit twice by lightning, causing potentially serious damage.
According to Todd Hamilton, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, they issued a severe weather alert at 8:51 pm Monday night with expected wind totals of up to 16 miles per hour and half-dollar sized hail potentially. While Todd said this was a fairly normal thunderstorm, he said the Killdeer area was hit the hardest. The reported rainfall totals for Killdeer was 3.52 inches, while the next highest total was only 2.77 inches in Hazen, ND.
I spoke with Gary Wilz, the Superintendent at Killdeer Public School who confirmed that the school had in fact been hit with lightning in multiple spots, and it was Maintenance Technician Wade Barns who originally discovered the aftermath of the lightning strikes on Tuesday morning. While the school has been hit with lightning in the past, Gary says this time is the worst that he can remember.
Gary didn’t have an idea yet what the total costs would be, as they were still discovering things that weren’t working. However, there were many things he was already aware of, including the elevator, phone system (which included over 30 phones), the paging system, a 48 port electrical switch and a 24 port switch (which were located on opposite sides of the building), and the heat pumps which both heat and cool the entire building. Gary also said there could be damage to the roofing and insulation, because in the building referred to as the old gym he discovered a smoldering pile of ashes that appear to be from a lightning strike hitting a vent shaft and raining burning pieces of fire proof insulation and roofing material onto the floor.
According to the National Weather Service, there are about 25 million lightning strikes that hit the United States annually. In fact, seventy to seventy five percent of all lightning strikes occur in the cloud and aren’t visible to the naked eye. Lightning is the second largest cause of weather related deaths with an average of 49 fatalities, second only to floods. Only about ten percent of lightning strike victims die from the strike, but up to eighty percent of survivors wind up with long term injuries. The chances of being struck by lightning are around 1 in 500,000.
There is no safe place from lightning outdoors. If you can hear thunder, then you are in range of lightning and should proceed immediately into a building with electricity or plumbing, and if that’s not possible head to a vehicle with a metal top and the windows up.