Friday, June 12, 2009

County Offices Closed Down by Lightning Strike; Improper Maintenance May be Cause

St. Louis County officials said Thursday that damage from a lightning strike Monday was more extensive than expected, but officials still hope to reopen three buildings Monday.

The lightning strike Monday morning created an electrical surge and fire that destroyed a switch, two electrical panels and wiring, officials said. The administration building, courthouse and annex building — which houses the police headquarters — have been closed since Monday.

The county has maintained most county services — the main exception being court trials.

The fire damaged a critical part of the government complex's electrical system — a switch between two large electrical panels in the boiler room under the administration building, said Garry Earls, the county's chief operating officer. The surge and the fire, which lasted about 45 minutes, also destroyed the electrical panels and adjacent wiring.

Officials at first did think the wiring damage was as pervasive as it proved to be, Earls said.

In addition, a company in Houston shipped a wrong style of temporary replacement panel that required additional wiring work.

Rumors are surfacing that County officials failed to properly maintain the complex's electrical system in an effort to cut expenses for the county. One resident commented, "While you can't stop a lightning stike, you can stop the effects of it."

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