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It could take at least a year to get Unit 2 of the coal-fired Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) Chouteau plant up and running after the facility suffered severe damage from a lightning strike and fire Friday.

The fire sent half a dozen employees scrambling for safety from the plant in Chouteau, OK.

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“I think we had 13 fire departments out here responding,” GRDA spokesperson Justin Alberty said. “I’m sure it was a loud, smoky mess for a little bit, you know,” he said.

After lightning disabled a pump that helped cool Unit 2 of the plant’s two turbines, the turbine kept spinning, overheated and started the fire, Alberty said.

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Investigators still are working to determine exactly where the lightning struck, but employees inside at the time were standing about 60 feet from where the fire started.

“You go from being just a business, an electric generator, to being kind of a family in a crisis like that,” Alberty said.

Inside the facility, Alberty said there was “a lot of equipment obviously that’s burned up, things like that. Damage, smoke damage, insulation on some of the piping that’s fallen down, things like that”

A generator connected to the turbine is expected to be out of commission for at least a year, but Alberty said all employees will keep their jobs.

He said customers should not expect any power outages during that time.

Alberty said this is the first time in more than 30 years this has happened to the plant, and it may take some time to figure out just how much money the bolt of lightning will cost them.

He said the authority hasn’t restarted Unit 1 yet because it is still undergoing a damage inspection.

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