PARIS — Police and fire crews were scrambling to set up backup systems early Wednesday night after a lightning strike took out the Regional Communications Center in South Paris.

“We are down,” said Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant just after 8 p.m. “We don’t know how much damage there is right now, but we know we’ve got damage to a lot of our equipment and programs. My IT guy is there right now.”

Emergency communications, including police and fire calls, went silent shortly before 8 p.m. when lightning cracked down on the center. The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the western part of the state. The storm system was expected to bring high winds, lightning and hail the size of golf balls.

As the storm raged, Gallant said they were working on backup mobile communications system that would use area towers.

“They do have that mobile trailer,” Gallant said. “I’m hoping they’ll get that fired up real quick and they can jump off the towers from that.”

It was not known how long the dispatch system would be down. Gallant said Director Of Communications James P. Miclon was on his way to the center to assess damage.

In September, Oxford County commissioners voted to allow the Regional Communications Center to spend $10,000 on new computer software.

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