Mother Nature, not vandals damaged Olympia preschool

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- At first criminals were blamed for extensive damage at an Olympia preschool, but it turns out it was Mother Nature instead.

When a teacher walked into Steamboat Island Preschool Wednesday morning, the door was open, a wall was ripped out and items were scattered across the room -- all signs of a break-in.

"You think about the safety of the children because theft is not common in this community at all," said school president Alton Huckaby.

A sheriff's deputy responded after the teacher called 911, but less than 24 hours later Huckaby says they discovered a lightning strike caused all this damage.

"What our electrician just said that was here is, if you were here at the time you would have seen the little streaks come across and blow out of this and it all would have been in an instant," Huckaby. "This would have been exploded -- it would have been like a war zone."

The lightning hit the top of the building then traveled down.

"It exploded out and then knocked over this shelf and threw books everywhere and then burned out -- you see a nice hole here in the roof where it traveled on this pipe," he said.

Outside the school, there was more damage to a wooden fence and the yard.

It's uncertain how long repairs will take but the staff is just grateful the students still have a school.

"It's kind of nice to teach them a little bit about Mother Nature as well," Huckaby said. "So this is a learning opportunity for us and the parents."

The preschool president estimates the damage will cost about $10,000 to repair. In the meantime, students will go to other schools until they can return to their own.