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Plans underway to install lightning protection system on capitol building

(Radio Iowa News) – Many tall office buildings have “lightning protection equipment” — but the state capitol doesn’t — yet.

“It is common for the capitol building to get struck during a lightning storm,” says Caleb Hunter, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, the agency in charge of maintenance of state buildings.

A lightning strike can carry up to 30 million volts of electricity and Hunter says there are multiple problems in “an increasingly electronic work environment” when lightning strikes.

“Obviously circuits and servers that need to be reset,” Hunter says.

Legislators this year set aside about $300,000 for installation of a lightning protection system for the state capitol. Hunter says some preliminary planning has been done, and the design will fit into the historical look of the capitol.

The finial at the top of the building’s golden dome it 275 feet above ground — and the capitol sits on the highest hill in Des Moines.

“Lots of metal on the building and being on a high hill with a large building, it’s obviously an attractive place for lightning to strike,” Hunter says.

Lightning protection systems are designed to intercept the charge from a strike and guide the electricity into the ground.

The state capitol building houses the governor’s working offices on the bottom two floors and the meeting places for the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives are in the building’s top two floors.