TOWNSEND -- It was a tense few moments after lightning struck the steeple of the Townsend Congregational Church and stopped the clock.

"You heard the crash, but it also caused a momentary power outage," John Mims said. "The fire alarm system really let us know. That's intolerable, the noise it makes."

Mims, the administrative assistant at the church, was in the building when lightning struck around 3:30 on July 15.

Things got busy quickly at the nearby fire station. "We took a hit on the master box system," said Chief Mark Boynton. Bells at the station rang, letting the firefighters know the call box system was down.

Almost immediately, a call came from the dispatch center and firefighters rushed to the church on the common.

Between 20 and 25 children from the Village Common Children's Center, housed in the church, evacuated to the porch. A driver on Route 119 stopped to tell the chief that lightning hit the church. Neighbors came out in the pouring rain to photograph the damage to the steeple.

Fire crews went up into the clock room and found no fire or interior damage except for a blown fuse on the clock.

The strike knocked out the telephone system and fire alarm system, Mims said.

By 10 a.m. the next day, Verizon had completed its part of the work to get the phones up and running and Moore Enterprise was completing their part.

Once the phones are completely back online, they can evaluate the network.


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The clock should begin running again once the fuse is replaced, Mims said. "Most likely the fuse blowing protected the system."

It is not clear how much work the shingles on the steeple will need. "That's way down on our priority list," Mims said. The church has not yet met with insurance adjustors.

Lightning strikes are somewhat rare, Boynton said. "We get a couple a year."

The department was already in the process of replacing the call box system, a system Boynton described as "old, but reliable," with a radio system when lightning struck.

No injuries were reported.