Crack! Lightning strike direct hit 'frightening'

No-one was hurt in the lightning strike but firefighters expected serious wiring damage. Photo / Otago Daily Times
No-one was hurt in the lightning strike but firefighters expected serious wiring damage. Photo / Otago Daily Times

A frightening direct lightning strike at a Mosgiel retirement village yesterday ''caused havoc with the electrics'' and frightened residents and staff.

Fire Service Senior Station Officer Ben Pitelen, of St Kilda Station, said a large building at Chatsford Retirement Village sustained a ''direct lightning strike'' just after 4pm.

''When lightning strikes a building it tracks through all the wiring because it is trying to get to earth, and it has caused havoc with the electrics.''

An electrician would need to access the extent of the damage but the ''huge amount of voltage in the strike'' would have significantly damaged the wiring in several of the village premises, he said.

''It's probably blown out 20 circuits on the main switchboard.''

It was rare for a building to be struck by lightning in Dunedin, he said.

He knew of six buildings in Dunedin that had been struck directly by lightning in the past 40 years.

The ''seriously impressive'' strike had left many of the residents shaken but nobody at the village was injured, he said.

Village kitchen hand Graeme Pettitt said he was outside the kitchen when he saw a flash and heard a ''metallic'' bang.

''I thought a delivery truck had driven into the building.''

Village chef Bronwynne Kyle said she was leaving the kitchen when the lightning struck.

Chatsford Retirement Village chef Bronwynne Kyle was at work when lightning struck the Mosgiel retirement home. Photo / Gregor Richardson
Chatsford Retirement Village chef Bronwynne Kyle was at work when lightning struck the Mosgiel retirement home. Photo / Gregor Richardson

''It was freaky. I was walking out the door and there was a huge ball of brightness and I said to Graeme 'what the ... was that?' and I do not swear. The noise was horrific, it was really frightening.''

The lightning did not damage the wiring to the ovens and the residents were served a bacon and vegetable bake at the usual time, she said.

- Otago Daily Times

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