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Lightning strike hits county jail

PRINCETON — An early morning thunder/lightning storm on Wednesday caused a communication outage at the Bureau County Jail.

Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said a lightning strike that hit shortly after 6 a.m. rendered a subsequent outage that caused all kinds of problems for the local facility. Thompson said the lightning strike took out the department’s communication radios, its Internet system, the computer system and the telephone system. It also took out the control panel for all the doors for the entire jail system.

Because of the outage, all communications were quickly diverted.

“All of our radio communication were diverted to Spring Valley,” Thompson said. “There was nothing life-threatening, nothing critical. It was basically just an inconvenience for everyone.”

The sheriff’s department utilized the Bureau County Republican’s BCRAlerts to notify area residents by text message/email of the outage and instructed subscribers to contact 9-1-1 for emergencies and the Spring Valley Police Department for non-emergencies.

Thompson said some of the department’s new radios were damaged; he’s hoping some of the equipment is salvageable, adding insurance claims will be made on the damaged items.

Around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Thompson said the department was “minimally functional, including the telephone system.” He said repair personnel were on the scene from a variety of entities to get the several systems up and running.

“We’ll be back to normal as soon as they can provide for the parts and repairs,” the sheriff said. “The repairmen are scrambling to get us up and running.” Thompson said he expected most of the systems to be somewhat, if not fully functional by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Thompson said Wednesday’s early morning incident was the fourth lightning strike at the facility in four years.

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