Lightning strike takes out phone service at division of Berkeley County Sheriff's Office

Building's security system was initially disabled by storm; phone service restored Wednesday

September 05, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The law enforcement division of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office operated over Labor Day weekend without phone service at the agency’s headquarters after lightning struck the building, Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster said Wednesday.

“This office took a direct hit last Friday,” Lemaster said Wednesday afternoon when phone service was restored.

The building’s security system was initially disabled by the storm and deputies had to share a key to get into the headquarters as a result, Lemaster said.

The lightning strike burned components in a room across from Lemaster’s office and the repairs could not be made over the holiday weekend, according to the sheriff.

Lemaster said deputies used their mobile phones and police radios to communicate.

Even before the outage, Lemaster said some residents might have had trouble contacting the sheriff’s office using their mobile phones because of a separate connection problem. Lemaster said he was unable to call his own office using his mobile phone because of the glitch.


The lightning strike Friday came little more than two years after a June 2010 lightning strike caused more than $100,000 in damage to the building off Emmett Rousch Drive.

Lemaster said he believes a communications tower near the building acts like a lightning rod and is at least partially to blame for the damage.

“Hopefully, we can get through the rest of the storm season and not lose service again,” Lemaster said.

“We’ve had some pretty bad lightning strikes and some near misses,” Lemaster added.

The law enforcement division is expected to move to a new headquarters at 510 S. Raleigh St. next year.

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