Lightning hits elementary school power pole

By: Laura Keil

The school year went out with a bang this June.

On June 23rd, staff and students at Valemount Elementary were startled by a huge bang that left classroom lights flickering. Other lights were stuck on or stuck off, and other electronic equipment may have been damaged.

Despite no obvious storm, it turned out that a bolt of lightning had struck the power pole feeding the elementary school about 40 feet from the school.

Neighbour Stuart Tait, the closest resident to the power pole, said he flew right out of his armchair without first putting down a foot, the noise was so loud.

Builder Erik Olofsson, who is working on a house on 8th Ave near the school, said he looked around for his dog Kanut, who is scared of lightning. He saw him sitting in his work truck, staring back at him through the window.
Students were reportedly sent home early on busses.

BC Hydro spokesperson Mary Anne Coules says BC Hydro replaced all three phases, and power was restored to the elementary school around 10 p.m. The school is the only customer that was affected by the lightning strike.

She says it’s possible that the school’s electronics were damaged by the lightning strike. She suggests they consult with an electrician if they have any concerns.

She adds that lightning can strike anywhere, and the path it chooses to ground is what determines the damage. BC Hydro has lightning arresters on their transformers to protect the equipment, but damage can still occur depending on the location and severity of the strike. She says customers can also install surge protectors on their electrical panel to help guard against damage to their electronics.

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