Lighting strike damages MCMS computers
By Elizabeth Newton
On Saturday, July 5, lightening struck a telephone pole located outside the eighth grade hallway of Morgan County Middle School, shutting down all power in the adjoining wing and damaging one classroom’s computer equipment.
The heavy rain resulted in a leak in the ceiling of eighth grade teacher Angela Stapleton’s classroom above a computer station. After the power automatically turned on, a possible combination of computer equipment, rainwater, and the instant spark of power resulted in one computer suffering intense damage.
“One particular computer had a meltdown,” said Bob Monk, director of operations for the Board of Education. “The heat was so intense it just melted the whole thing.”
While there was no trace of flame damage suggesting a fire, the heat from the affected computer damaged nearby computers and the computer began to pour out thick, black smoke throughout the classroom.
Other computers were damaged when the fans in their computer towers sucked the smoke inside their engines, filling them with soot. The air conditioner also pulled the smoke through vents into the hallway and nearby classrooms.
A total of 38 computers, a printer, and another piece of equipment were damaged during the storm as a result of lightening and rainwater.
“Lightening was the main culprit it turned out,” Monk said. At 6 p.m. the fire alarm sounded, alerting the fire department. Because the school’s fire alarm is designed to automatically trigger doors in the hallways to close, only the eighth grade hall suffered damage.
After assessing the situation and finding no evidence of a fire, the fire department cleared the room of the damaged computer equipment and placed fans in the building to thin the smoke in the air.
“The fire department was quick and very helpful,” said Dr. Joe Hutcheson, principal of the middle school. “They did everything they could to help out.”
By 7 p.m. MCMS faculty members and county workers were on the scene to investigate the situation.
“The smoke in the hallways was so thick, you couldn’t see your hand two feet away from your face,” Hutcheson said.
Once most of the smoke had been filtered out, Richard Brown, the school’s head custodian, and his crew began the clean-up process following the storm damage. The crew is tackling each room one at a time, wiping down lockers, airing out rooms, scrubbing walls, and wiping down each book stored in the closets. The school has also hired Servpro, a fire and water clean-up and restoration company, to assist with cleaning the hall. Officials estimate that the total cost of clean-up will be about $4,000.
“They have done an outstanding job,” Monk said. “Servpro’s motto is ‘Like it Never Even Happened’ and that’s what we hope it will be like for our school.”
Jay Cawley, director of the technology for the school system, and Technical Support Specialist Tiffany Markley inspected the condition of the electronics.
Monk estimates the cost to replace the computers and equipment will be $45,000.
Hutcheson said the restoration of the eighth grade wing will be complete in time for teachers returning for pre-planning on July 22.
– Additonal reporting by Jessica Blomquist.