A Lake Johanna fire department chief sifts through the crowd, trying to find a staff member to find out information about the lightning strikes on the first night of homecoming. | Photo by Maddie DeBilzan

Struck by lightning

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The Hagstrom Center, Arden Village East and Edgren were hit by lightning on Oct. 2.

By Aidan Ruch

Lightning struck Bethel University in multiple locations around campus on Monday, Oct. 2, the first night of homecoming. These lightning strikes hit the Hagstrom Center and Arden Village East, where it caused the fire alarms to be triggered, and Edgren, where it caused smoke to come out of the third floor electrical outlets.  

The Lake Johanna Fire Department arrived at the scene, which is the standard operating procedure whenever fire alarms are triggered, according to Associate Director of Security Operations Nathan Katterson.

The fire department evacuated everyone from Edgren after the lightning struck at 8 p.m., deeming it to be potentially hazardous based on reports. Edgren was declared safe about a half hour later, according to Katterson.

Security and Safety did not treat anyone for any injuries that night, nor did we receive any reports of anyone injured or treated by other agencies,” Katterson said.

Although Campus Security does not have unique policies relating to lightning strikes, they were able to follow broader procedures relating to property damage and medical situations. These two procedures were able to encompass any contingency that would occur during a lightning strike.

The lightning strike that hit Edgren managed to disable the dorm’s internet connection, causing the dorm to be without Wi-Fi for the next couple of hours.

The lightning strike was the ultimate culprit for the extended outage in Edgren,” said Andrew Luchsinger, Associate Director of IT Infrastructure, Services and Support.

Although all of the electrical equipment is isolated from surges, some of the legacy cabling for the Hagstrom center ran along ventilation ducts. These ducts were hit by lightning and it jumped to the legacy lines. These legacy lines then transmitted this surge to the grounding lines which caused the main network line to fail along with some power, HVAC and the alarm systems, according to Luchsinger.

Our monitoring system alerted us right away. We triaged the situation with our onsite technician and offsite management service. Some localized troubleshooting was conducted to determine root cause while a communication plan to those affected was put in place with the crisis communications team and the Edgren RD,” Luchsinger said. “A backup switch was configured to clone the affected hardware and replaced as soon as it was determined the existing equipment was not salvageable.”

Throughout the following days, tests were conducted to make sure everything was in order. There was no lasting damage to the wireless and everything is back up and running normally.

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