Huntsville City Hall struck by lightning Thursday, disables fire panel

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Former Huntsville cop and current city hall security guard Ray Tielking didn't know what he saw when he got to work Thursday morning.

"It was just a large white explosion right off the top of the building," he said.

Lightning struck the city hall's fire panel around 7:30.

Tielking says he smelled burning wires when he got to basement. Security doors automatically shut, and the elevators did what they were programmed to: went straight to the basement and stayed open.

The fire alarm was also going off in the municipal building as maintenance crews worked to get everything back to normal.

In the meantime, all city hall employees had to take the stairs, including Mayor Tommy Battle.

"They're accustomed to going up the elevator," said Tielking. "As they come through here, we had to tell them they had to walk u the steps to get to their office. It's seven or eight floors here, that's quite a distance."

While they got their unexpected exercise, maintenance workers got the elevators functioning and assessed the damage.

There was some damage to the fire panel. Jeff Taylor of city maintenance tells WHNT News 19 that the panel will likely have to be replaced. In the meantime, 24-hour staff will monitor city hall to make sure the building is protected.