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View Full Version : Lightning strike - a cautionary tale...



DyerWolf
2009-May-11, 01:00 PM
While working in my shop last Friday, during a thunderstorm, a bolt of lightning struck not 100 meters from me. The flash and HUGE bang were simultaneous - easily as loud as any artillery I've heard landing nearby.

I went out front to discover that the lighning had struck my neighbor's chimney. The superheated masonry exploded - see the pic.

I hadn't planned on working during the thunderstorm - it just boiled up on me unexpectedly & I was busy protecting my work from the rain when the bolt hit.

Pretty exciting. Also, a good reminder why lightning isn't anything to mess about with...

Swift
2009-May-11, 01:27 PM
Wow! Cool picture. Sorry about the neighbor's chimney

01101001
2009-May-11, 01:36 PM
I really don't like how those bricks wound up like 10 meters away. That was a large area that had heavy flying stuff in it.

Or, are the bricks where the lightning put them? I ask because after an earthquake once, at work, when windows were broken and large shards were created, someone (OK, me) took a large sharp triangular piece and inserted it into the grass dramatically some distance from the building. It was subsequently photographed and put in the local paper as a cautionary tale of how far from a building bad things could happen.

From experiencing scary close lightning, I'm ready to believe some steam from the rapid heating might fling them that far.

Someone (not me) needed to take half a brick and glue it to a tree and photo it and say, "See, it almost went right through that tree!" Heh.

DyerWolf
2009-May-11, 01:42 PM
That photo was taken just after I determined my neighbor wasn't home. The bricks were all where the lightning left them.

Pretty strong smell of ozone, rock dust & a touch of smoke. We called the FD - who ended up taking the whole chimney down & covering the area with a tarp.

The firefighters also mentioned that some of the brickwork had punched through the drywall in her upstairs room.

Another casualty was my neighbor's glass table on her deck. I think the concussion from the thunder shattered the glass - as it was well away from the point of impact. (The shattered safety glass lay in a perfect circle on her deck underneath the frame of the table).

Nicolas
2009-May-11, 04:26 PM
Lightning can be extremely powerful. I've heard lightning strikes some kilometers away after which I saw a funny little brown cloud drifting by. The next day, I found the exploded tree that was the source of this cloud.

An acquintance of an acquintance once had a lightning strike on his house while on holiday. The electricity system overpowered, exploding sockets and the like. This set the curtains on fire. Luckily the fire went out by itself so the house wasn't lost.

Fazor
2009-May-11, 04:56 PM
A neighbor of ours had lightning strike their house years ago. Little damage to the building, but blew out some tv's, a computer, etc. The funniest thing was, their son had some remote control cars that moved. (My assumption now is that he had accidently left one or two of them on, and the charge in the air was enough to fool the radio receptor).

PraedSt
2009-May-11, 05:00 PM
I ask because after an earthquake once, at work, when windows were broken and large shards were created, someone (OK, me) took a large sharp triangular piece and inserted it into the grass dramatically some distance from the building.
:lol: Wish I'd thought of that...


The electricity system overpowered, exploding sockets and the like.Something similar happened to me a couple of years back. Lightning hit a junction box outside my house, traveled up my internet cable, and then maliciously fragged my LAN card. This according to my service engineer- all I knew was a large bang followed by a dead line.
I was not a happy bunny, let me tell you.

Salty
2009-May-11, 06:21 PM
I've never been that close to a lightning strike, a quarter mile (about 400M) is about as close as I've ever been; and that was nerve racking.

So far, so good about my little house in thunderstorms, which we get here in DFW, TX. I have two pecan trees taller than my house, to catch anything as well as a ground wire on the house.

closetgeek
2009-May-12, 03:39 PM
We are not sure exactly how close to our house the lightening actually struck but it was close enough that the flash and the sound seemed simultaneous. My three year old, one year old, nine year old nephew, and ten year old niece were all in the living room with me, while a nasty storm was passing over. Since we are all still alive I am assuming that it was just a trick of light to make it seem that it passed, horizontally, through my living room. However, it was close enough that all of the hairs on all our arms were standing on end and I had completely lost hearing, all but the ringing, in my right ear. Over the course of the night, an unbearable pain set in, in my ear which eventually landed me in the emergency room. They treated it as an ear infection and gave me some drops but three days on the medicine had passed and the symptoms persisted. I finally went to my doctor who looked in my ear and said my eardrum was perforated which she attributed to the lightening. It was pretty unnerving to think of how close all the kids were.

Nicolas
2009-May-12, 04:02 PM
How's your hearing now?

I used to live right next to (as in neighbour) a nukeliar ;) power plant. So we had loads of about 100m high, steel electricity poles everywhere around the house. Once there was a terribly active thunderstorm. After switching off the main electricity switch (overpower precaution), we enjoyed the scene of one lightning strike at a random electricity pole once every 5 seconds. It was like "this might kill us, but there's nothing we can do about it, so let's enjoy the scene". It was b-e-a-u-tiful.

closetgeek
2009-May-12, 04:23 PM
How's your hearing now?

I used to live right next to (as in neighbour) a nukeliar ;) power plant. So we had loads of about 100m high, steel electricity poles everywhere around the house. Once there was a terribly active thunderstorm. After switching off the main electricity switch (overpower precaution), we enjoyed the scene of one lightning strike at a random electricity pole once every 5 seconds. It was like "this might kill us, but there's nothing we can do about it, so let's enjoy the scene". It was b-e-a-u-tiful.

Those are my thoughts during any storm. I remember a girl I went to school with, was fortunate enough to not be "safe" in bed when a storm rolled in because lightening struck her house, setting her bed on fire. It's random and unpredictable, I would rather be watching then hiding. That particular time, I had too many youngins in my care to go dashing for the door. That was over nine years ago and most of the hearing has long since, returned. There is a slight difference in volume but that could be natural differences that I only notice because I am consciously taking note of it. There is significant frequency loss. I didn't realize how bad it was until my husband moved out and I no longer had a second set of ears hearing the alarm clock but, if I happened to be sleeping with my left ear on the pillow, I do not hear the alarm clock buzzing until I lift my head.

PraedSt
2009-May-12, 04:29 PM
My three year old, one year old, nine year old nephew, and ten year old niece were all in the living room with me, while a nasty storm was passing over.
Sounds like it was time for 'My favourite things'. :D

NEOWatcher
2009-May-12, 05:11 PM
So far, so good about my little house in thunderstorms, which we get here in DFW, TX. I have two pecan trees taller than my house, to catch anything as well as a ground wire on the house.
I wouldn't count the trees as too much protection. I had a neighbor and a relative both whose houses were struck and damaged by lightning. Both struck the nearby tall trees. On one of those, the lighting travelled about 50 feet along a clothesline first (from tree to tree, not connected to the house). The next morning we saw little charred pieces of clothesline lying on the ground. All were less than a couple inches in length.

And that ground wire... What does it connect to, how high does it go, and what's the thickness? If it's your house wiring ground, then the result might just be that all the wiring in your house gets fried.

Salty
2009-May-12, 05:21 PM
I wouldn't count the trees as too much protection. I had a neighbor and a relative both whose houses were struck and damaged by lightning. Both struck the nearby tall trees. On one of those, the lighting travelled about 50 feet along a clothesline first (from tree to tree, not connected to the house). The next morning we saw little charred pieces of clothesline lying on the ground. All were less than a couple inches in length.

And that ground wire... What does it connect to, how high does it go, and what's the thickness? If it's your house wiring ground, then the result might just be that all the wiring in your house gets fried.

Well, I see what you mean. One pecan tree's trunk is about eight feet from the house and its branches overhang the roof, in the back yard. The clothes line is strung from that tree, to the other pecan tree, in the NW corner of the back yard.

The ground wire, if I remember correctly, runs from the electric meter on the back of the house, to ground. It's a heavy gauge copper wire. That's in case lightning follows the electrical wires from the pole to the house.

Said pecan trees are higher than either electrical or telephone poles. I guess I and all my neighbors have just been blessed, in our neighborhood.

Gandalf223
2009-May-12, 05:35 PM
Wow. That pic reminds why I'm so earnestly respectful (men ain't afeerd) of lightning!

Some 30+ years ago, my wife and I had been watching T-storms with friends all evening. It was July 4th of whatever year. We had gone to bed late. Sometime about 12:30 to 1:00 am, a bolt of lightning hit, either the metal fencing around the so-called patio next to our apartment window, or the power pole about 75 feet away. At any rate, though I was asleep (AFAIK) I saw the flash through my closed eyelids, and the simultaneous thunder sounded like the end of the world was upon us. Within a few seconds the ozone smell was so strong I can still smell it when I remember the incident.

Come to think of it, I've never been all that fond of lightning...

Lurky
2009-May-12, 06:04 PM
Someone I know got hit by lightening! Actually it was the tree near by him...and then it went through him as well. He's ok now...but has hearing problems and heart issues from being hit.

Argos
2009-May-12, 06:38 PM
Every summer a lightning strikes close to me. Early this year, we had one just 100m away. On stormy nights CBs put out a great show. Im very used to it, and lightning rods are ubiquitous down here.

Trebuchet
2009-May-12, 07:21 PM
All of these stories make me quite happy to be living in this part of the world, where lightning is a rare event. Maybe one or two distant storms a year.

eric_marsh
2009-May-12, 07:45 PM
My father told me a story about how he was waiting at a bus stop in Seattle during inclement weather and a block from him a woman who was jogging had some sort of a headset on with an antenna. According to my father that was a bad choice on her part.

Argos
2009-May-12, 08:04 PM
All of these stories make me quite happy to be living in this part of the world, where lightning is a rare event. Maybe one or two distant storms a year.

The sound of thunder is a great pain for dogs. When storms are approaching they start to feel uncomfortable. When lightning strikes very near it makes the poor things miserable. They get absolutely terrified [maybe because of certain sound frequencies].

eric_marsh
2009-May-12, 08:18 PM
The sound of thunder is a great pain for dogs. When storms are approaching they start to feel uncomfortable. When lightning strikes very near it makes the poor things miserable. They get absolutely terrified [maybe because of certain sound frequencies].

Yes, I know. The only time Bodhi ever left a big smelly one in the house was the first time we had a nearby thunderstorm.

Nicolas
2009-May-12, 08:40 PM
I for one (no, no welcoming :)) absolutely looooove the ultimate bass sound created by some lightning strikes. I don't mean the "so loud your head bursts" things or the high pitched tearing sounds, but the low, loud-but-not-too-loud, chest-pumping, rolling, cracking thunder bass. When you're outside and you hear and feel that, it's just wonderful to me. I'm not a bass adict, but that particular sound is so pure and powerful, I find it magnificent.

Nicolas
2009-May-12, 08:43 PM
Something -call it the fatalist in me- likes lightning in another sense. The philosophy of "yeah, and who knows tomorrow a bolt of lightning zaps me to fumes". We're all safe and comfy, but those zillion volt zaps at random places every now and then gives you the reassuring feeling that there are some evil forces you simply can't do anything about and hence don't have to worry about. :) A lot less stressful than all those "just weak enough to make precautionary work useful" dangers. :) Lightning says "it's ok to fail on this one" and that lifts a large weight of your shoulders.

PraedSt
2009-May-12, 08:50 PM
Lightning says "it's ok to fail on this one" and that lifts a large weight of your shoulders.
I see I'm going to have to avoid the LAPCAT. :D

Nicolas
2009-May-12, 09:00 PM
You might be interested in other projects I was involved in, such as coaches by Van Hool, the Al Marjan island in Ras Al Khaimah and the container terminal in Khalifa, Abu Dhabi. Add to your avoid list today. :D

But seriously, where other people are involved, I'm always being careful, and usually for myself as well. But my mother taught me not to worry too much about things beyond your control; As I said, our neighbour was a nuclear power plant. Whenever the alarms used to go off at other than the standard alarm test hours, she'd say "it's probably a test, and if not, we'll notice all by itself". And we weren't freaked out by this, nor sarcastic or truly fatalistic. Just realistic: there are some dangers beyond your control, live with it.

LaurelHS
2009-May-12, 09:05 PM
My high school got struck by lightning in 1996 because the chimney was lined with metal. The bricks from the chimney flew everywhere. People who lived blocks away found broken bricks in their yards and there was a lot of shattered glass in the school hallway and other damage. Miraculously, there were only a few minor injuries among the students, but the school was closed for several days for repairs. I still sometimes get nervous during thunderstorms.

novaderrik
2009-May-12, 09:09 PM
when i was 16, i was sitting in my living room watching a really cool thunderstorm thru the slidng door that went out to the porch- it looked cool where i was, but the next town over (6 miles away) got hit pretty hard by a tornado..
anyways, i just happened to be looking at a power transformer about 50 yards from my house when it got hit by lightning and exploded.. it shot hot metal shards and sparks out about 50 feet and the pole it was on started smoking. of course, the power then went out in my whole neighborhood.
that was really, really cool..

Nicolas
2009-May-12, 09:09 PM
In primary school, our large classroom fuel heater exploded once (chimney ash explosion, not the thing itself luckily). Back row notitions were all black, and a flame was seen rising from the chimney accross the village.

And we were like "WOW! oh ok, the heater went kaboom. No fire. OK. wow.", dusted off, and continued the class. I love it how that power plant ruined the fear factor of kids. :D ;)

Argos
2009-May-12, 10:05 PM
I for one (no, no welcoming :)) absolutely looooove the ultimate bass sound created by some lightning strikes. I don't mean the "so loud your head bursts" things or the high pitched tearing sounds, but the low, loud-but-not-too-loud, chest-pumping, rolling, cracking thunder bass. When you're outside and you hear and feel that, it's just wonderful to me. I'm not a bass adict, but that particular sound is so pure and powerful, I find it magnificent.

Yeah, I like it too. In fact, I love storms of all kinds.

Ive always envied the people whore fortunate enough to see Auroras, like the Alaskans. But, in the end, I think that I cant complain at all, because the display of light and sound on a typical summer storm down here is absolutely magnificent, and it can last for hours.

publiusr
2009-May-18, 10:56 PM
Just be careful if your hair stands on end. There was a family on a mountain and their hair frizzed out, and took a self portrait right before a tragedy. I also remember reading about a policeman struck in hus cruiser. The light bar wiring formed a path IIRC. There was another bit I read where the teslas from a near strike might cause heart failure even without a direct strike, although I might be mis-remembering that.

Tog
2009-May-19, 08:23 AM
The Girlfriend's father ran a "Trouble Truck" for the power company for most of his life. When a big storm was coming in, he would load the kids into the truck and drive out to some place on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. They'd sit in the truck, under the shield of wires and watch the storms roll across the lake.

Another guy I work with was driving in an RV (Winnebego) that he thinks was hit. There was the flashboom and the the vehicle shook, then every tire went flat over the course of a few seconds. Best guess at the time was the heat from the lightning heated up the steel belts in the tires enough to melt hundreds of little holes in them.

I've always gotten really hyper in thunderstorms. Even if I'm indoors and don't know they're coming. I like the big boomers that come in loud then roll away. Those "craking" ones, not so much. My thunder needs to echo.

closetgeek
2009-May-19, 02:07 PM
We are finally creeping into the storm season here. It has been raining since about 1 yesterday afternoon but have only had a few rumbles. This is my favorite time of year in Florida. I love the long bass rumbles that rattle the windows, as well, but I love the cracking sound of when it strikes real close. It makes you jump clear out of your skin. Since storms seem to come in from all directions around here, sometimes we get to sit on the back patio and watch them roll in, sometimes we watch them roll out, either way is fine with me, as long as they pass over us. Nothing is more disappointing then watching lightening flashing like crazy, off in the distance, while the storm runs parallel to us.

Moose
2009-May-19, 02:32 PM
I was camping with some of my scout troop a solid twenty years ago. Sudden storm one evening, etc. We were tucked away in our tents to wait it out. Then everything went white and the loudest boom I've ever heard. The ground shook a little.

We peeked our heads out, and a tall oak that used to be across the clearing (maybe a hundred yards away) wasn't anymore. :D Nobody was hurt. We didn't think of it at the time, but we really should have gone and found the ex-tree the next morning. That would have made a cool photo.

Nicolas
2009-May-19, 03:45 PM
Too bad you didn't go looking for the remains of the tree! Would have made some great pics, plus you'd likely have been able to sell what was left of it for a good price.

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(The owner does not respond.)

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?

Owner: What do you mean "miss"?

Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

Owner: We're closin' for lunch.

Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this oak what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead oak when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable oak, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful foilage!

Mr. Praline: The foilage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Mr. Praline: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Oliver Oak! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle patch of land for you if you show...

(owner pulls on a branch)

Owner: There, he grew!

Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you bending that branch!

Owner: I never!!

Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!

Owner: I never, never did anything...

Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the trunk repeatedly) 'ELLO OLIVER OAKY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Takes remains of oak out of the garbage bag and thumps a loose branch on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet into pieces to the floor.)

Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead oak.

Owner: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?

Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.

Mr. Praline: Um...now look...now look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That oak is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour
ago, you assured me that its total lack of green leaves was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged growth spurt.

Owner: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.

Mr. Praline: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?

Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin' on it's back! Remarkable tree, id'nit, squire? Lovely foilage!

Mr. Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining that oak when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been kept in one piece in the
first place was that it had been NAILED together.

(pause)

Owner: Well, o'course it was nailed together! If I hadn't nailed that oak together, it would have grown up to the roof, bent 'it apart with its leaves, and
VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

Mr. Praline: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this oak wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised! In fact I am quite sure this one oak did get four million volts through it before I bought it!

Owner: No no! 'E's pining!

Mr. Praline: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This oak is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e
rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im together 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the
bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-OAK!!

(pause)

Owner: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh,
we're right out of oaks.

Mr. Praline: I see. I see, I get the picture.

Owner: I got a stone.

(pause)

Mr. Praline: Pray, does it grow?

Owner: Nnnnot really.

Mr. Praline: WELL IT'S HARDLY A BLOODY REPLACEMENT, IS IT?!!???!!?

Owner: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)

Mr. Praline: Well.

(pause)

Owner: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to come back to my place?

Mr. Praline: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

mugaliens
2009-May-19, 03:53 PM
The closest I've ever been to a lightening strike in an open environment (I was outside) is about 15 feet.

That's way too close!

Nicolas
2009-May-19, 06:08 PM
Waaaaaay too close.