PORT CLYDE—The lighthouse made famous by Forrest Gump has hit a setback.
On a rainy evening last week, Diane Heath, the publicity coordinator for Marshall Point Lighthouse was inside the keeper’s house when she noticed a squall kick up around the property.
“The wind started blowing, the flagpole was sort of bent over; which is unusual to see in the summertime–you see that more often in the winter. I went out to take some video in the side garden and then I got a bad feeling and knew I had to get inside,” she said.
Soon after, she witnessed a flash of light with a crack of thunder immediately on top of it and she ran to the front window and saw the light was out in the lighthouse tower.
The lightning strike “fried” the LED lens in the lighthouse lens surrounding it, foghorn, and all associated circuit breakers, according to Heath in a story initially published by Penobscot Bay Pilot last week.
“There is a lightning rod on top of the lighthouse,” she said, noting that the Lighthouse museum also possesses an old lightning rod with a crack in it, due to a previous lightning strike to the keeper’s house in 1895.
“The entire keeper’s house burned down in 1895 and had to be rebuilt,” said Nat Lyon, the Museum Director. “It was replaced by the current keeper’s house that you see today.”
The Coast Guard was summoned as they service Maine’s lighthouses and foghorns. Bob Trapani, a local photographer and Coast Guard reservist, and a crew from Navigation Team Southwest Harbor arrived to investigate, and ultimately remove the light, said Lyon.
“We understand the light would have to be replaced if it can’t be repaired,” said Lyon.
Chase Miller of USCG Aids to Navigation Team Southwest Harbor has an update on what is next for the light.
“The light, was in fact, destroyed from the lightning strike, along with the foghorn and all of the controlling circuits,” he explained. “When we went up to the tower, we removed all of the damaged equipment and replaced it with partial equipment with a controller for the foghorn temporarily. The actual light itself has been ordered last week and is en route.”
Miller noted that lightning strikes to lighthouses aren’t as rare as you think, particularly given the rainy weather Maine has experienced this summer.
“Lightning strikes are pretty common this time of year and ground moisture has a lot to do with it,” said Miller. “It was just an unfortunate event.”
On August 7, National Lighthouse Day, the Lighthouse staff always allows tours of the tower, where four people can fit up in the tiny circular room at a time. This time, given the time restraints of replacing the light, it will be empty.
The Marshall Point Lighthouse staff asks volunteers for a donation for the annual tour as their events and operations, apart from the gift shop, are volunteer-led.
“It’s an opportunity for people to come out and view the lighthouse in a way they have never seen before,” said Heath.
“We’re going to have the light back for Maine Lighthouse Day in September,” said Lyon. “We’ll open the tower on August 7 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.”
For more information about Marshall Point Lighthouse & Museum visit: https://www.marshallpoint.org/
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com