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Carillonneur recalls moment lightning hit the Plummer Building

Severe weather rolled through Rochester last night, bringing strong winds, rain, and lightning.

KTTC managed to capture the moment a lightning bolt hit the Plummer Building in downtown Rochester. Nothing was damaged, but Mayo Clinic’s carillonneur was inside, unaware of the severe weather.

Austin Ferguson is the hospital’s youngest and fourth carillonneur, which is someone who plays the carillon, a set of bronze bells in a tower. To play, Ferguson uses foot pedals and wooden dowels called batons that look like a keyboard.

The Plummer Building’s carillon is at the top of the building, about 300 feet off the ground. Ferguson’s office is just below the bells.

He wrapped up his 4:45 p.m. concert and noticed it was drizzling outside, but thought it was nothing to worry about. With nothing to do until 7 p.m., he sat in his office and read a newspaper article. That’s when he heard the unexpected just before 6 p.m.

"Almost immediately, I hear this enormous bang and felt the room shake. My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, the wind has blown a bell and it’s broken off the frame and hit the floor.’ You know, disaster mode. So I went up there with a flashlight trying to see if anything had broken or fallen, and I couldn’t see anything," he said.

Ferguson assumed it was a nearby thunder cloud when he didn’t find any damage. It wasn’t until an hour later, at about 7 p.m., when someone sent him the picture of the lightning bolt hitting the building.

He had no idea the area was under a severe thunderstorm warning, so he was in shock when he realized what really happened.


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