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Lighting strikes South Boston DMV; Employee gets a jolt from desk

A local Department of Motor Vehicles employee experienced a significant electric shock resulting from a lighting strike during a severe thunderstorm Wednesday around noon. Although shaken after receiving the jolt while sitting at his desk, the employee was not seriously injured and did not have to be transported to the hospital, according to Halifax Emergency Service Coordinator Kirby Saunders.

Emergency service personnel were called to the Department of Motor Vehicles office on Hamilton Boulevard at 12:02 p.m. after receiving a report of someone being struck by lighting.

Units from South Boston Fire Department and the Halifax County Rescue Squad responded to the scene along with members from the South Boston Police Department.

Upon arrival, Saunders said they were able to determine that only one DMV employee had experienced what was described as an electrical shock while sitting at his desk.

“This occurred simultaneously with a lightning strike at the front of the office,” Saunders said.

Officials noted minor damage to the exterior of the building and to two electrical outlets inside.

DMV employees reported seeing smoke from the two outlets and immediately evacuated the building’s occupants Wednesday afternoon.

According to Melanie Stokes, a spokesperson for the Virginia DMV, the South Boston DMV had to close unexpectedly because of the damage resulting from the storm.

The DMV had been scheduled to remain closed on Thursday for repairs; however, the DMV office was open Thursday, and one employee said they would try to remain open as long as the system was working.

The DMV 2 Go mobile office was parked outside of the DMV Thursday providing emergency services on Thursday.

Customers also were able to conduct business through DMV’s website at www.dmvNOW.com where more than 31 transactions are available.

The National Weather Service office confirmed lighting activity in the immediate area around at the time of the DMV strike, Halifax County Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders said Wednesday.

“Lightning is one of the most underrated severe weather hazards, yet ranks as one of the top weather killers in the United States. Lightning strikes in America kill about 58 people and injure hundreds of others each year. The safest place to be when lighting threatens is in a substantial structure with electricity and plumbing,” Saunders said.

However, when inside during a thunderstorm, Saunders urged people to avoid contact with anything that could conduct a lightning strike, including anything that plugs into a wall outlet, corded phones, plumbing, metal doors and window frames.

“This means do not take a shower or bath during a thunderstorm. Battery-operated computers and cell phones are fine. Generally, enclosed metal vehicles (not convertibles) with the windows rolled up, provide good shelter from lightning,” the emergency services coordinator added.

“If a storm is approaching, get inside immediately. Gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, convertible vehicles, and golf carts do not provide protection from lightning. When lightning can be seen or heard, the danger is already present,” he added.