Inside Stories

InsideChelmsford: Lightning Struck Twice

Pictured left to right: Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen, DPW Director Christine Clancy, State Rep. Jim Arcerio, Public Schools Superintendent Jay Lang, State Rep. Simon Cataldo, School Committee member Susan Mackinnon, South Row Elementary Principal Terri Gilbert and State Rep. Rodney Elliott

by Jennie Oemig

CHELMSFORD – It’s rare that lightning strikes the same location twice. However, last year, South Row Elementary School in Chelmsford was struck by lightning twice in the span of just a couple weeks.

“The two most recent lightning storms occurred this past summer,” said Christine Clancy, Chelmsford’s director of public works. “We had just repaired the fire alarm system that was damaged from the lightning strike(s) and another storm came through and damaged the system again. The repairs to each instance cost several thousand dollars.”

Because the damages to South Row’s fire alarm system were not only expensive, but also created a serious safety issue, local officials began looking into possible solutions.

Ms. Clancy said the town consulted with a lightning protection vendor, who recommended installing two lightning interceptors on the roof of the school and grounded from the roof to the ground at four locations.

“The lightning protection system will allow lightning to hit the two towers and safely dissipate any charge from the lightning to the ground without damaging any school infrastructure,” she explained.

Funding for the project will be coming from the state.

On Monday, Jan. 22, State Representatives Simon Cataldo, Jim Arcerio and Rodney Elliott presented town and school officials with a check for $70,000 to cover the cost of the system installation.

“Chelmsford’s House legislative delegation worked to add this earmark to the state’s budget to keep the building and school community as safe as possible,” Rep. Cataldo shared on Facebook. “Grateful to everyone at Chelmsford Public Schools who makes this a place for our kids to learn and grow.”

Rep. Arciero said he, Rep. Cataldo and Rep. Elliott were happy to secure the funding in this year’s state budget following a request from Superintendent Jay Lang and Town Manager Paul Cohen.

“South Row Elementary School is in a very unique situation with a history of several lightning strikes,” he said. “This earmark will go towards keeping (our) students and staff safe in the building.”

Ms. Clancy said she expects the interceptors will be installed before summer.

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