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Historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse hit by lightning, cutting off light seen for miles

Cape Lookout Moonrise Lighthouse climb

Take a look at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse on a Moonrise climb, courtesy of the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority.
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Take a look at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse on a Moonrise climb, courtesy of the Carteret County Tourism Development Authority.

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse, built in 1859, has been dark on North Carolina’s Outer Banks for weeks after being struck by lightning.

Repairs were being handled by United States Coast Guard, according to the National Park Service, which controls the historic site as part of Cape Lookout National Seashore.

The historic 163-foot high tower’s rotating light is typically seen up to 20 nautical miles at sea, the park service says.

“The United States Coast Guard reported to us that after inspecting the light, it was discovered that it was hit by lightning which fried a very unique capacitor,” Karen Duggan of Cape Lookout National Seashore told the Charlotte Observer Wednesday.

In an update issued Thursday, June, 27, Duggan said the Coast Guard “was just out at the lighthouse installing the new part” and the light was expected to return that evening.

It took three weeks for the needed part to arrive, she added.

The popular lighthouse -- topped with a lightning rod -- remained structurally sound after the lightning strike. It has a history of attracting lightning, including a bolt that famously struck the tower in April 1879, the National Park Service says.

Among the oddities of the lighthouse is that its “glow or loom can be seen when the light is actually below the horizon,” the park service says. “In some atmospheric conditions refraction causes the light to follow the earth’s curvature, too.”

The lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the park system in 2003 and is open to tourists for climbing Wednesday through Sunday.

A fire on privately owned Brown's Islands near the Outer Banks sent up a huge smoke plume near Harkers Island, east of Beaufort, North Carolina on May 23, 2019. The smoke could be seen, and smelled for miles around Carteret County.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
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