Home CATNews Updates Local Government Lightning strikes thrice at Westford Town Hall, Oct. 21

Lightning strikes thrice at Westford Town Hall, Oct. 21


Westford Town Hall
Westford Town Hall. FILE PHOTO


An eight-channel audio mixer. COURTESY PHOTO
An eight-channel audio mixer. COURTESY PHOTO

An unusual lightning storm on Oct. 21 fried technical equipment at Town Hall and left town employees shivering for a day.

Warm weather that day gave way to a cold front from the south, according to meteorologist Ed Cohen of Westford. The cold front contained bands of rain with thunderstorms resulting in lightning strikes and flash floods around the region.

“It’s not that usual to have a thunderstorm that late in October,” Cohen said. “You don’t expect it.”

Mike Wells, the town’s technology director, said he learned of the damage inside Town Hall over the weekend of Oct. 22.

“…we had damage to some network equipment, four desktop telephones, a desktop computer and the A/V equipment in the main Meeting Room,” stated Wells in an email.
But most of the equipment got repaired quickly.

They “had the network back up and running by 7:30 on Monday morning. We replaced the telephones…, and had the computer working again on Monday afternoon,” he said.
Fixing the audio/visual equipment was a bit thornier, Wells said. But he hopes to have it up and running in a few days when he receives the replacement parts.

Westford CAT equipment used for recording the sound inside Town Hall during governmental meetings was also affected by the lightning storm. The community access television station lost an eight-channel audio mixer used for recording multiple voices when officials speak into microphones inside the meeting room. The damage meant the audio portion of a Planning Board meeting that was recorded on Oct. 24 inside a control room, could not be used.

“It unexpectedly ruined the audio for the Planning Board meeting,” said Stephen Edwards, Westford CAT programming coordinator, explaining that the entire meeting got recorded but could not be aired.

The device was daisy-chained to another unit, Edwards said, leaving the station without a second piece of equipment to fall back on.

“We’re running on the back up…so we need to get that fixed as soon as possible,” he added.

And the lightning strike had more work to do before it was done with Town Hall. In the basement, the central control system which manages the building’s heating system was also put out of business. The town’s facilities technician, Bill Kenison, learned of the damage when he arrived at work on Monday, Oct. 24.

As luck would have it, the day was chilly and the temperature inside the building was between 50 and 60 degrees, he said.

Did any employees go home to get warm?

“No,” Kenison said. “It was business as usual.”