The Jackson County Detention Facility has long been considered a virtual storm front for area politicians, however, Friday morning it literally became the center of the storm.
"We were kind of all just standing around in dispatch and then heard a loud boom and everyone jumped," Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas explained. "At first we kind of laughed and then we started to see things shutting down and we realized it was pretty serious." According to the sheriff, the embattled building was struck by lightning around 9 a.m. "We took a direct hit on our radio tower. It came down the tower, across, arced over and hit the vent pipe for our fuel tank and then came through the building," he explained. "There was actually fire coming through the return vent. We have had lightning strikes in the past but nothing of this magnitude. We have everything on surge protectors but when you take a lightning strike like that there isn't a surge protector anywhere in the country that could stop that. It was a major, major hit." The lightning strike immediately began causing problems for the county's law enforcement agency. "It knocked out our whole radio system. We have two - our primary and our backup - it fried both of them. We had some early issues with the security cameras, controllers, some of our door locks, our security locks were knocked out," said Lucas. "Luckily, it didn't get the keypads on our jail entry doors so were able to keep that secure. It did knock it out going from the sheriff's office to the jail but he was able to get that fixed." Lucas credits his staff for making the event easier to handle. "Everyone pulled together and worked together and we were able to get our primary things up and running in a reasonable amount of time. We were probably down maybe a couple of hours concerning our primary stuff." He added, "We were able to get them back up within about 30 minutes because we took a radio out of one of our spare cars, hooked it up to an external power supply, hooked up an antenna and we had our primary radio.' The department monitored the other radios with a scanner and routed communication through the Newport Police Department. They "worked all day Friday trying to get our primary stuff back up," Lucas noted, and repairs are ongoing, however, surprises are still showing up. "We are still finding stuff that is wrong. We get one thing fixed and find something else." Minus the deductible, insurance will cover most of the cost for the damage, which Lucas estimates "roughly at $10-$15,000." "This was a major deal, but it could have been worse. We didn't get anyone hurt, the building is still secure and we are still able to do our job."