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Bolt Hits Belltower

Lightning struck the Belltower, knocking a capstone loose Tuesday night. After assessing the damage Wednesday, repair crews were using a rented lift and crane to reach the capstone 108 feet up the campus landmark, which traditionally glows red for commencement.

To protect visitors, the tower’s base was cordoned off with yellow hazard tape because the two- by two-foot stone perched on the corner “does not appear to have any anchorage other than its weight,” said Jack Colby, assistant vice chancellor for facilities operations.

From inside the tower, facilities staff photographed sunlight streaming through a corner where the capstone had been. The lightning rod and ground cabling were damaged, metal roofing was bent and a piece of stone fell from the tower, Colby said.

The News & Observer reported today that police were looking for a souvenir hunter who was seen carrying off a chunk of carved granite.

Workers hope to replace, secure and seal the capstone. If crews find that damage is more extensive than expected, they will stabilize the capstone so the area can be used for commencement weekend.

The tower’s clock stopped temporarily because the lightning strike tripped electrical breakers, but it was working Wednesday, along with the chimes and irrigation system. Blown-out lamps on the flag light will be replaced.

The campus gathering place and NC State icon was created as a memorial to 33 alumni who died in World War I. Largely completed in 1937, the monument contains 1,400 tons of stone set on a 700-ton concrete base, according to facilities.

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