Lightning struck the communications center at the Noble County Sheriff's Department Friday evening, knocking the radio system off the air for a short time and damaging some equipment.
A severe lightning storm came through the area, and not long after 9 p.m. the dispatch center on South Seventh Street in Albion received a direct hit. No one was injured, but for a time all the computer systems were off the air, after an electric surge so severe that smoke even came out of one of the computers. While dispatchers, supervisors, and electronics venders struggled to make repairs, dispatchers at the Kendallville Police Department took over duties for the entire county.
It was Kendallville dispatchers who sent the Albion Fire Department to a possible transformer fire on North York Street a short time later. Lights flickered across Albion, but power remained on and no damage was reported outside of the Sheriff's Department building. The only other weather related problem was flooding from the accompanying heavy rains, which brought County and State highway personnel out to put up high water warning signs.
The storm was part of the same system that spawned two huge supercell storm systems in central Missouri. Those spawned at least one tornado, which caused heavy damage to the St. Louis International Airport and caused it to be closed down. Numerous injuries were connected to the storm system, which continued on into Illinois and Kentucky, then Indiana and Ohio.
In Albion, most Sheriff's Department computer systems were brought back online within two hours, but heavy damage was reportedly done to the radio systems. Workers switched out equipment and were able to get part of the radio systems back online, while dispatchers relied on portable equipment to replace what had been damaged beyond compare. By around 2 a.m. the communications center was back in operation, but how long final repairs will take and what the costs will be wasn't certain. Officials say the damage should be covered by insurance.