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Friday, July 11, 2014

Lightning Strike!

While we were up in Missouri last month for Little Hoss’ birthday, we had a little more excitement than we wanted…


(Please excuse the photo quality)

We were all settling down around 9:30 in the evening.  We stay at my parents’ home when we visit and that night Little Bird was spending the night too.

We’d been having some thunderstorms on and off during the day.  At that time there was some drizzle and distant thunder & lightning.  Or at least we thought it was distant…

We were mistaken.

What we figured happened is lightning hit a tree off the deck, then traveled to the dormer roof of the upstairs bathroom... the one I was in getting some Motrin. The light flash and boom were tremendous. Not sure exactly what the sequence of events was from there.

I saw a cascade of sparks coming down over the window six feet away from me.



Himself was in bed and the outlet blew near him... blowing a heavy electronic transformer out of the outlet and it blew the nails about a 1/3 of an inch out of the studs along the wall near that outlet! Crazy!

Mom was in her room with Little Bird; trying to get her to settle down and go to sleep. 

Power goes out... We smell ‘hot’/smoke. Dad, who was downstairs, didn't know anything was really wrong until we all bolted downstairs.

Now here is a really weird thing.  All the power was off in the upstairs of the house.  Nothing.  Downstairs there was power.  But the TV was blown.  Upstairs… the TV was fine.  Go figure!

I went back upstairs and heard water running.  I thought maybe I'd not gotten the sink off all the way.  Nope... sink was off.


I still heard water running. I looked in the tub and water is flowing from under the tub surround into the tub!! Not good!!

Pretty soon water was coming out of the ceiling downstairs! We punched screwdrivers into the ceiling to get the water out before the entire ceiling came down.  We had big containers waiting to catch the spill.


That is water you see coming down from the soffet, down the side of the refrigerator, and into the catch bowl!  It was doing that all down the soffet.

It came down the inside of the walls too.  Enough that a shelf Mom had over the door came down… anchors don’t hold in ‘mud’, which is what the drywall had turned into to. 


Very quickly the fire department arrived and the water was cut off. 


They went thru the entire house with a thermal imaging device that showed if there was any heat in the walls or attic.  Hotspots they wouldn’t be able to see were picked up by the machine.  How cool is that?!

Between the firemen and electrical company guy, they pronounced the house ‘safe’.

Since there was no water in the whole house and no power upstairs, Himself and I spent the night in a motel.  Next morning we went back and saw everything in the light. 


Blackened outlets. 


Plaster blown off the wall in various places. 


And a fried TV.

When the plumber came in to repair the damage to the pipes, we found that where wire had crossed the copper pipes… it MELTED the pipe.  This happened in two places.

(Oh, a personal word of advice.  Take a LOT of photos as quickly as you can of the damage… during would be really good.  That way you have proof that indeed water WAS running down that wall when the adjuster says he can’t see a problem.)

As you can imagine, I have become suddenly interested in lightning safety.  I’ve found out some interesting things.

Lightning enters a home normally thru one of three ways: direct hit, a hit to lines or pipes outside your home, or a hit to the ground.  Lightning can travel thru the ground up to 60 feet!

So it is a good idea to:

Keep your hands (and anything else) off of corded items… landline phones, computers, stoves, etc.  Of course you can use a cordless or cell phone.

Keep your hands (and anything else) away from anything that carries water by pipe.  Don’t bathe, wash your hands, do dishes, do laundry, or the like.

Don’t sit/lay on concrete floors or lean on concrete walls.  Think rebar folks!

If you are seeking shelter from a storm, do NOT go into a shed, pavilion, porch, or any other structure without plumbing and electricity.  Strange as it sounds, it is the very thing that carries the current that will keep you safe.

Here’s something to think about:

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.

Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.  YIKES!

Also people… remember your pets outside.  Dog houses offer NO protection and a dog on a chain is basically going to get fried if lightning hits close by.  Bring them into the house or garage.

A few years back, a local stable lost seven horses that went under a tree during a storm.

Here’s a little bit on lightning safety in the car.  In a typical cloud-to-ground strike that hits an auto, it usually hits the antenna or along the roof line.  It then passes along the metal shell of the auto, then thru the tires to the ground.

So if you are in a car during at lightning storm, do NOT lean on the doors.  Take a look the next time you get in the car.  That top is mostly exposed metal!

Here’s a good site to get material for teaching children about lightning safety.  Let’s make them wise… not afraid… of storms.


 Stats show that 81% of fatalities by lightning are men.  90% of those were struck when either they were fishing/boating or involved with a sports activity.  Many of them were in the process of seeking shelter when they were struck.

In other words… they waited too long.

So far in 2014 there have been 9 people killed by lightning.

Four of them were in Florida (which has the by-far highest number of lightning deaths each year).  All have been men.  Three were under a tree.  One was on the edge of a lake fishing.  One was outside picking blackberries.  One was riding a motorcycle.  One was on the road side messing with his windshield wipers.  One was at a construction site rolling up his car windows.  And one was on a roof doing roofing construction.

Let’s not become a statistic…  


1 comment:

  1. WOW! Lightening is nothing to play with. Glad to hear everyone was safe.

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