Transformer Fire Cancels Classes at Technical College

Officials are unsure whether the transformer itself was hit by lightning.
Officials are unsure whether the transformer itself was hit by lightning.

The giant thunderstorms that rolled through coastal Georgia last night have left their mark on one college campus. Okefenokee Technical College in Waycross had to cancel classes after the school's transformer went up in flames.

"My first concern was to make sure that our students stayed out of the area and out of harm's way," said director of instruction Jeffrey Hoffman.

Hoffman can't forget what he saw Thursday night. "You could see a fireball going off over by the creek behind the college."

Although school officials still don't know for sure if the transformer was struck by lightning, the Doppler Max 11 Weather Lab confirms heavy lightning was in Waycross. Flames from the transformer blackened the grass and melted the vinyl siding right off the back of the school. The fire even burnt a nearby picnic table to a crisp.

As electricians make repairs outside, faculty members are firing up the generators to find out what's still working inside. Down a darkened hallway, past where teachers and staff work by candle and flashlights, Hoffman checks out classroom computers.

"We lost several computers, but on the whole, it's looking positive," he said. "It definitely could have been a whole lot worse."

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but until everything's up and running, school will be out at Okefenokee. With no classes for several days, most students would be happy to get away, but students at OTC are actually still showing up.

Student Michael Crews turned out to put the skills he's learning to work. "They've given me so much with what they've taught me that I just want to get back to classes and help everybody else start back," he said.

School officials say this could have been much worse. Fortunately the fire did not come into the building. Still, repairs could cost tens of thousands of dollars and classes and Okefenokee's Waycross campus are cancelled until at least Tuesday.

Reported by: Liz Flynn,