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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Historic strike

  • Ever notice the pole atop the Hannibal High School chimney?
    Perhaps.
    Perhaps not?
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  • Ever notice the pole atop the Hannibal High School chimney?
    Perhaps.
    Perhaps not?
    It runs all the way down the side of the building and into the ground.
    You're probably wondering how this could possibly be a story to put in the paper. It's just a pole on the chimney of a high school, after all.
    True.
    But the story as to why it's there is one for the history books.
    April showers were in full swing in 1936. Of course just like the recent weather we've had this week, 77 years ago it was severe and stormy.
    On Sunday, April 5 that year an immense storm was passing through Hannibal. There were heavy rains, lightning, thunder, and even reports of tornados. And at exactly 7:15 a.m., lightning struck the new Hannibal High School which had just opened on McMaster's Avenue.
    The powerful strike sent chunks of brick and concrete into the building and around the campus.
    James T. McKinney, who was a watchman at the state highway department building at the time, saw the whole thing happen. In the April 6, 1936 edition of the Courier-Post, McKinney said he "saw a ball of fire strike the school" and that he was blinded by the bright light. When he regained his sight he said, "There were bricks flying everywhere."
    It was reported that 20 tons of material came through the roof, damaging the bookkeeping room and public speaking room. Original estimates of damage ranged between $8,000 and $20,000. E.T. Miller, Hannibal superintendent in 1936, said 11 desks and nine tables were smashed in the bookkeeping room and steel trusses holding up the two-inch concrete roof were snapped by the weight of debris.
    The chimney originally stood 41 feet above the high school roof and 65 feet from the ground. Damage from the lightning cut 20 feet of the chimney off and debris was found in 75-foot radius. Some reports indicated bricks were found on the high school's front lawn and front sidewalk. Water leaks were reported throughout the building.
    Not long after the lightning strike repairs to the building. The chimney was leveled off where the lightning struck it and remains at that height to this day. St. Louis Lightning Protection Company came in and installed a lightning rod that leads from the top of the chimney to the ground to absorb any future strikes that may occur.
    The certification plate showing Hannibal High School is lightning proof is still anchored to the building next to the lightning rod.
    And this isn't the only lightning tale Hannibal has to tell.
    In 1964, power was cut off in town. In 1992 lightning struck Hannibal National Bank and sent debris 100 feet away into the new flood walls under construction. And just three years ago this September, Fifth Street Baptist Church was struck during a bad storm.
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