South Platte Park rangers happened upon an electrifying scene on July 1, after a tree outside Carson Nature Center was struck by lightning, blasting out windows at the center and frying parts of the …
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South Platte Park rangers happened upon an electrifying scene on July 1, after a tree outside Carson Nature Center was struck by lightning, blasting out windows at the center and frying parts of the building's electrical system.
The tree was struck at around 4:15 p.m., said Skot Latona, manager of South Platte Park. The nature center is closed on Mondays, and Latona had just left the building moments before the strike, he said.
“We were lucky,” Latona said. “Another day of the week and a volunteer would have been sitting at the desk.”
A ranger found the damage to the building later in the afternoon, Latona said.
The strike blew a large section of wood and bark out of a cottonwood tree that shades a garden on the east side of the building, which shattered windows and scattered chunks of wood throughout the building.
Two large fish tanks near the windows were undamaged, Latona said, as the old glass tanks had recently been replaced with Lexan.
“We're lucky there, too,” Latona said. “If it were still the old glass tanks we would've ended up with fish all over the floor.”
The charge entered the building's electrical system through the automatic sprinkler system, Latona said, and blew the face off the irrigation time clock.
The shock also destroyed security panels, a network modem, and the building's decades-old low-voltage light switches, Latona said.
“The security system is back up, but everything else will have to be replaced,” Latona said.
The nature center is operating as normal, Latona said, although he didn't yet have an estimate for the full timeline or cost of repairs.
An arborist will try to save the tree, Latona said.
This is the first time the nature center has suffered lightning damage, Latona said, though lightning strikes are not uncommon on trees in the park.
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