Lightning strikes and high storm winds toppled branches from two of the landmark huge, old oak trees on the lawn of the Lakeland Public Library Wednesday afternoon.

Lightning struck the tree closest to the swan sculpture near the corner of Lake Morton Drive and Palmetto Street around 4:30 p.m., draping the sculpture in fallen branches; exposed wood could be seen down to ground level. A nearby bench was flattened.

Nobody was hurt, according to head librarian Lisa Lilyquist.

Sculpture and tree in happier times

Large branches fell from a tree close to the library building, damaging the roof and causing leaks that penetrated an east wall of the library. The leak was quickly cleaned, the wall is being repaired this morning, and a roof company was assessing the damage, Lilyquist said.

Library patrons told Lilyquist they saw two lightning strikes about 15 seconds apart from the reading area near floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a usually idyllic view toward Lake Morton. She said she was in her office and heard a loud thud.

The most recent information is that two of the oaks will have to be removed and a third is being assessed, she said. City crews were removing debris this morning.

“So much of our identity is the beautiful canopy,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking to those of us who enjoy the setting and we hate to see anything happen to the library. 2020 has thrown us some loops so far. Nobody was hurt and that’s the positive thing to focus on.”

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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