Lightning blasts UA building's bricks to 'smithereens'

By Amy Fredette

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The old UA art building was struck by lightning on the northwest corner Saturday, knocking a portion of concrete onto the second-floor catwalk and scattering debris on the ground below.

No one was injured, according to UAPD reports.

Alfred Quiroz, an art professor, was on the southwest corner of the building with his wife, Marcia, when the lightning hit at about 5:45 p.m. The couple was moving a plywood panel into the building.

"It was a huge light flash and explosion at the same time," Quiroz said. "It literally put bricks into smithereens."

Quiroz said there were about four art students in the painting room discussing a performance project for a class when the lightning struck above.

"It was crazy. ... The whole building shook," said Matthew Cotten, a graduate art student who was inside the room.

In addition, several other pieces of concrete on the building were raised up, said Charles Raetzman, assistant director for facilities management grounds and labor. Raetzman said this damage should be simple to repair.

Grounds and Labor is in the process of cleaning up the debris. Until then, the catwalk that connects the old art building to the new art building will be blocked off. Both buildings share the same address 1031 N. Olive St.

Because lightning generally does not strike concrete alone, Charles Weidman, assistant research scientist for atmospheric sciences, explained that most of the buildings on campus contain some kind of metal like electrical wiring or drainage spouts.

Weidman added, "Anything that is tall is likely to be struck."

A similar incident took place about 10 to 12 years ago when the northeast corner of the same building was struck by lightning, Raetzman said.

Raetzman said that the extent of damage has not been estimated at this time, but that the University of Arizona is in the process of finding an outside contractor to make an assessment.

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