Lightning Damage

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

‘Direct hit’ from lightning damages 911 center at jail

By Jason C. Mattox

A lightning strike at 12:03 a.m. Sunday caused hundreds of thousands in damage to the dispatch building and equipment and other areas at Panola County Jail.

“We suffered a direct hit from lightning, and it rendered us inoperable out in dispatch,” Panola County EMA Director Daniel Cole said, speaking of the block building located a few feet away from the David M. Bryan Justice Complex on Highway 35 North of Batesville.

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Cole said two dispatchers were on duty at the time of the strike. A sheriff’s deputy was also present, but none were injured.

“The trustys said it sounded like a loud gunshot when it happened,” Cole said.

Trustys are housed separately in a building in the complex.

Since the early-Sunday strike, dispatch for the county has been handled through the Batesville Police Department.

“We initially called AT&T to reroute the calls to Batesville, and we sent a dispatcher from here to go and assist with the overflow,” Cole said.

Cole said the phone system inside the jail was damaged along with the E-911 system, T1 internet lines and there have been some problems at the trusty housing.

“At this point we have a lot of unknowns,” he said.

Cole estimated nearly $500,000 in equipment was damaged by the strike.

“The E-911 equipment is covered under our service agreement, and we have been told it should be up and running by sometime (March 30),” he said.

Dispatchers will be operating out of the Panola County Emergency Management trailer until the building repairs can be completed., according to Cole.

“We are going out and getting quotes for the repairs, but we really don’t know how long it is going to take to get back up and running fully,” Cole said. “It might take a few days or it could be two weeks.

“We know we are going to have to get the equipment replaced and the building repaired, but the important thing is that nobody was hurt,” he said.

Cole said there is a smaller version of the E-911 system that is operating from the EMA trailer to improve communications.

“We have a long way to go, but we are better off than we were when it happened,” he said.