By Elisabeth Waldon and Curtis Wildfong
EUREKA TOWNSHIP — They heard it a split second before they felt it … a big bang followed by an electrifying jolt.
Cassie Barr, 14, was standing by her locker at Grattan Academy, talking to her friend Meghann Farrell, 14, about math homework Monday morning. Alicia Miller, 13, was washing her hands in the restroom.
It was about 8 a.m. when lightning struck the charter school building, sending a surge of electricity through the entire structure, which houses sixth through 12th grade students.
“We saw the flash, we heard the crackle and then thunder and it was bang, bang, bang,” said Superintendent Tom Kreiner. “You could hear the building had taken an electrical charge.”
Staff and students were stunned by the jolt.
“Out of nowhere we heard this big bang,” Barr said. “We could hear it before we felt it. It was like having fire set to your back. We looked at each other like, wow. We smelled like fried chicken. It was horrible.”
Barr and Ferrell walked to their class, but as the shock wore off, the intensity of what had happened set in and they began crying. They were immediately taken to the school nurse, as was Miller, who had also received a shock through her hands, which had been wet when the lightning struck.
The lightning strike had knocked out all telephone and Internet service at the school, so the school secretary called parents on her personal cell phone. Barr’s mother, Marie Brodock, who works as a delivery driver for The Daily News, received the call at home.
“I was like really panicking because they didn’t really tell me much on the phone,” Brodock said. “When I got to the school the girls seemed OK. Cassie’s upper back had like a bright red sunburn almost. There was a burn mark in the shape of a star too.”
Barr, Ferrell and Miller were all taken to the hospital for their minor injuries. Seven other students also received small shocks.
Kreiner said staff and students reported seeing outlets sparking and a charge traveling through a string of Christmas lights. The school didn’t lose power, but the surge took out the school’s server, email and phone system, blew about half a dozen breakers and fried some televisions. The fire alarm system was also knocked out, but was restored later Monday.
Officials haven’t yet determined the exact point of the lightning strike.
“It was pretty scary,” Brodock said. “You don’t know what kind of effects it has.”
One possible effect is hunger.
After being examined at Spectrum Health United Hospital in Greenville, Brodock said her daughter requested a Wendy’s stop on the way home. The teen ordered four hamburgers.
“She’s usually a really picky eater too,” Brodock said. “She ate all four of them.”
“I was really hungry,” Barr exclaimed.