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Lightning strike closes Saratoga Springs City Hall

Lightning strike closes Saratoga Springs City Hall

The storm also caused multiple outages
Lightning strike closes Saratoga Springs City Hall
Director of Risk and Safety Marylin Rivers and other Saratoga Springs staff view where a fire was contained City Hall.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Editors note: This article has been updated and corrected

A storm that swept through the region Friday night resulted in downed trees, outages, accidents and damage that included a lightning strike to Saratoga Springs City Hall.

Fire and water damage to the Saratoga Springs City Hall will result in the building being closed for at least Monday, officials said. 

Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Robert Williams said his department was responding to four other calls when the lightning struck the roof. He said he believes the current from the lightning went into a "vent pipe" on the roof and superheated the pipe to "thousands of degrees" in temperature, igniting combustible materials inside the building.

"We always worry about city hall. It's old, it's historic. It's got a lot of space, the attic space is huge and it's all open, although it's sprinkled," Williams said. "We declared the fire extinguished at 10:22 p.m., it took about two hours."

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Power was affected in some areas of the region as a result of the storm. As of 6 p.m. Saturday, power had been restored in most places. According to National Grid's website there were still 63 active outages but only 793 customers were affected. 

In Saratoga Springs, Williams said that city hall's drainage system was affected by the lighting strike, which caused a lot of water to pour into the building.

Williams said the rooms most damaged by the water included the dance hall, the police administration office, public safety codes room, the main office of DPW and part of the city council's chambers. City police dispatching was transferred to the county for a short period of time until damage could be assessed.

Williams said he's not certain why city hall's lighting rod protection was inadequate to prevent the damage.

"Normally they protect the building," Williams said. "But sometimes the lighting will hit a building instead of the rods. It usually reaches for the highest point, but Broadway has a lot of tall buildings. It's just the luck of the draw."

Mayor Meg Kelly and the city council voted to declare a state of emergency Saturday at a special session of the council held inside the city recreation center. Kelly said city hall will be closed on Monday.

"Basically, we just need to find out if the building is stable," Kelly said. "Once we find that out then we can start moving in a direction and finding new space if we need to or get back into the building."

Officials indicated that the city will likely have enough insurance coverage to handle the cost of the repairs, although there were no estimates Saturday on how high those costs might be.

The Saratoga Springs Police and Fire departments are open and the city's emergency dispatch center, although it relocated to the county's facilities briefly Friday night, is now back in operation at city hall.

Aug. 19 noon: This article has been updated to remove outdated information about a previous unrelated crash.

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