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NSF Building Evacuated in Ballston After Apparent Lightning Strike

by ARLnow.com October 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm 4,359 17 Comments

The National Science Foundation building at 4201 Wilson Boulevard in Ballston was evacuated after an apparent lightning strike caused an electrical fire.

At least one witness reported hearing a popping sound as power went out. Rancid-smelling smoke spilled out of the building’s parking garage as a large fire department response surrounded the building.

While firefighters investigated the smoke, dozens of office workers stood outside in the light rain, waiting for the building to be reopened. Fire equipment blocked the westbound lanes of Wilson Boulevard.

There are reports that another building across the street was evacuated due to the smell of smoke. Firefighters believe the smoke was coming through an underground tunnel from the NSF building.

Much of Ballston, including Arlington Central Library, is currently without power.

Update at 2:20 p.m. — Most of the fire crews at the NSF building are packing up their gear. The actual fire investigation seems to be on the P2 level of the NSF parking garage.

Update at 2:25 p.m. — Wilson Boulevard has now reopened.

Update at 9:10 p.m. — From NSF spokesperson Dana Topousis: “The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be closed on Thursday, October 28, due to a power outage. Employees are encouraged to check NSFAlert.com for updates.”

Update on 10/28 — Dominion’s Le-Ha Anderson sheds more light on why the NSF building is closed here.

  • Lou

    Lightening, really? That whole line of storms just passed through DC and I didn’t hear any thunder. More likely water got down into some electrical gear. They’ve had underground electrical issues between those two buildings before, and there was a generator parked at Stuart and 9th for many months while Dominion was working around there.

  • Doug

    Yea, I’m doubtful it was lighting as well. I passed by an electrical worker on the other side of the entrance to the parking garage and overheard him say there was something like a foot of water on level p2. It’s unknown to me if that is due to the fire department doing their job or water from the heavy storms.

  • Larry

    I was in the building in the phone at 1:15 when I saw a flash and heard a crack of thunder. Then the power went off, on, off. And off. The parking damage had lots of noxious fumes.

  • pud

    Transformers make a flash and go boom when the explode.

  • Fahmida Chowdhury

    Does anyone know whether the NSF building has re-opened?

    • Ben

      Hey boss, I have no idea!

    • FredA

      A transformer blew in ’07 at or near the NSF building and the building was closed for at least 24 hours. A good tell is whether the web page loads. Currently, it does not. http://www.nsf.gov

    • Mary Ann

      Fahmida–If you haven’t heard, the building will be closed tomorrow, Thursday, October 28. Further updates by noon tomorrow. Check out http://www.nsfalert.com (… and, yes, that is “.com”).

      • Fahmida Chowdhury

        Thanks Mary Ann! I hope they re-open tomorrow … and I hope the IT systems come back up today!

  • David

    According to my last grant review, if it get struck by lightning at least one more time they will fund me.

  • Dude Where’s My Car

    Did anyone else see this DeLorean flying down Wilson Blvd.? It looked like it was doing 80, maybe 90 MPH, which even for that part of Wilson Blvd. is a little on the fast side. I remember saying to myself “somebody’s in a hurry to get to Chipotle.” Then there was a really bright flash (from the lightning strike?) and boom and when I looked again the car was freaking GONE. I expected to see it wrapped around a light pole, but there was no trace of it. Somebody called the fire department because it looked like the asphalt had somehow caught fire.

    • me

      great scott!

      • Dude Where’s My Car

        Ha! Is that like a new catchphrase or something? I ran into this crazy old white-haired dude earlier in the afternoon and he said the exact same thing. Wanted to know where something called “Parkington” was… and “Hecks?” I told him “heck if I know!” Then he looked at his watch and said “Great Scott!” and ran off.

        • Mr. Strickland

          I think I saw the same dude, he was yelling something about 1.21 gigawatts and not needing roads where he was going!

  • Eleanor

    Will Fastlane be up soon so we can continue to submit proposals?

  • Jim

    I’d like to hear Pat Robertson’s explanation for a lightening strike on NSF.

  • Chuck

    What does this mean for all the engineering students who have fellowship applications due at 5pm today??

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