Lightning during a heavy rain

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by Corzhens, Jun 24, 2018.

  1. Corzhens

    Corzhens Well-Known Member

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    I have been reading news reports of deaths caused by lightning. It is mostly in the rural areas particularly in the farm or open fields. But lately, lightning had struck a biker on the road. That is food for thought because some riders continue on their trip even when it is raining. Over here, rains usually come in combination with lightning so there is a risk. To be honest, I am scared of lightning even if I'm inside our home. That's why I wouldn't ride when there is an indication of rain. Better to be safe than sorry.
     
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  2. treecko142

    treecko142 Member

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    Yeah, I hate biking even when it's light rain since I really don't want my clothes and hair wet especially when going to work or somewhere else. Heavier rainfall just poses so much risk other than the lightning, such as the slippery roads, decreased visibility, flooding, heavy wind, etc.
     
  3. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    I live in Florida, the "Lightning Capital of the world." Ten deaths a year happen in this state, from lightning strikes. A man was killed here on Sunday afternoon. He was a 33-year old plumbing contractor who became friends with a woman he had done work for. They drove to a place where he went snorkeling while she sat and read a book. When he came out of the water, it started to rain, and they both said how much they love the rain. They were walking back to the car, he just a step in front of her, when lightning struck. She was shocked and fell to the ground but she was conscious. She looked up and saw light around his head and sparks coming from his waist. He just stood there then fell forward on his face; dead.

    The safest places in a lightning storm are in your house or car. Another thing about it is that lightning can strike up to ten miles away from a storm.

    I moved to Florida five years ago, and began to enjoy riding in the rain, wearing just swim shorts and flip flops. It's very refreshing. But then I found out about lightning. It kills approximately 30 people a year, nationwide, but when you consider there are 326 million people in the US, the statistic isn't so bad. Far more people die from other causes. Still, I think it's wise to stay out of the rain if you don't have to ride in it.
     
  4. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    Lightning doesn't scare me, unless the storm is almost directly overhead by then I'll try to find some sort of overhang, once I rode into a barn when a storm came up while I was riding in the country, those lightning strikes hit not to far from where I was at which was the closest I'd been to lightning on my bike. But that same storm brought hail and I was more concerned there would be a tornado then I was of the lightning.

    But when you think about, lightning killing 30 people a year in reality equates to one chance in 700,000 of being hit in any given year. What's weird is when I said I was more worried about a tornado is that the odds of dying in a tornado is one in 5,693,092, so I should have been more worried about the lightning then I was about the tornado!
     
  5. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    Lightning can strike several miles from a storm. I was out just after 6 a.m. for my morning ride. Three miles into the ride, I noticed the sudden start of cloud lightning. By time I got home there was an enormous streak of lightning ahead of me. Probably a mile or two away, but I'm not one to tempt fate.

    Probably 20 years ago I was attending my annual electrical code class, and I was on a motorcycle. It was a 20-miles trip and I was about 17 miles from home when a storm suddenly struck. It was after 10 p.m. and very dark. The rain was lashing down and I had nowhere to shelter. Then the lightning started. Each time it flashed I could see tree debris and other stuff in the road. In this case I guess the lightning saved me because there were some big chunks of wood which would have brought my motorcycle down.
     
  6. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    I was often called to electrical problems following a storm. In one case, the lady said some of her receptacles aren't working. Then she took me down the yard, about a hundred feet from the house, to where a huge tree had a 2" strip of bark burned off both sides of the trunk by a lightning strike. Her deceased husband had installed a yard light on that tree (illegal). The wire was a long extension cord which ran into a shed, and he used to plug it into a receptacle, but it hadn't been plugged in, it was just hanging near a fridge. The fridge was plugged into the receptacle.

    The lightning followed that cord down the tree, into the shed, jumped from the plug and peppered a bunch of small holes in the side of the fridge. The lightning then followed the fridge cord and into the circuit that ran underground to the house. It continued on into the breaker panel and was then distributed to the various receptacles. All of the receptacles were working, but the appliances weren't. She lost her small appliances and her stereo system and TV.

    She asked me to write the bill, saying it was a power company fault, but I declined to do that. She intended to claim on the house insurance, but if the insurance company investigated and found it was due to lightning, I'd have been in trouble. My license was at stake, and I don't like to lie, anyway. I felt bad for her, and maybe the insurance took care of her.

    In another case, a man had a disused TV tower by the corner of his house, about three feet from the house. There was no cable on the tower to conduct the lightning into the house. Lightning hit the tower and jumped across to a receptacle near the corner of the room. It blew the receptacle out of the wall, but no other damage. The following year, the same thing happened again, and that's when he decided to take the tower down.
     
  7. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    That house situation should have never happened if the house had the electrical circuit designed correctly. A house is suppose to have a heavy cable called a conductor cable that carries the voltage to a copper rod that is buried deep into the ground, so when lightning strikes the current passes from the house into the cables and into the rods and is then discharged through the ground all the while bypassing most of the voltage away from the circuit panel.

    See: http://stormhighway.com/protection.php

    In addition to that above system that is required by code in all states in America and has been required for quite some time, I've installed four other protection devices on my home because I live in a lightning prone area. The first line of defense is the meter surge protector, this is a surge protector that goes on right at the meter and keeps stuff from getting inside. Then the second line of defense is a whole house surge protector that is installed in the breaker box, so anything that gets passed the meter protector is then intercepted by the breaker box protector. The last, or third line of defense are my small surge protectors I've installed on various appliances and electronics.

    Yes I have surge protection for appliances, why? because all appliances today are ran by electronics and not mechanical workings like they once did, mechanical workings could care less if lightning struck it but electronical ones do care. So all my appliances and my TV and Blu Ray use the Tripp Lite Isobar 4 Ultra; my stereo is covered by a Panamax 1000 which provides a temporarily boost even during short brownouts just long enough for it to shut power off to the components and protect them; my computer is supported by a APC battery backup surge protection unit; and the rest of my minor electronics are protected by cheap surge protectors that may or may not help at all! My garage door opener has a built in surge protector so I haven't added anything else to that.

    Even with that protection I do not expect any of the surge protectors warranties to cover anything regardless what they say they'll do or won't do because I've found such warranties over the years to be completely bogus, like I did for a Ridley frame that cracked after about 8,000 miles and 8 months of use from inferior scandium headtube strength and Ridley did nothing about it saying it was fatigue; or the time my carpet with a 25 year stain warranty got a stain and the carpet company wouldn't do a thing about that; or the time a 25 year roof shingles failed after 7 years and again nothing was done about that either; or people I knew who had expensive top of the line Kryptonite locks and had their bikes stolen could not collect on the loss of the bikes, but hey they were given new locks! all these non warranty pay outs because of loopholes, and I'm sure the surge protector companies have their loopholes too. Which is why my 4th and final line of protection for my house against surges is my homeowners policy, sure it has a large deductible but something is better than nothing.

    I guess one could just say screw it and go with the insurance but I know the meter and the panel protector are very well known in the electrical trade so I'm pretty confident those will work; the Panamax and the Tripp Lite are also well known but not sure how they would stand up to their warranty, but the Panamax is old and the warranty was only good for 10 years and it's now 22 years old but it seems to still be working good.

    There is one thing I do whenever there is a blackout, I turn off the main breakers and the individual breakers, and then when the power comes back on I turn on the mains then everything back on room by room...if I'm home to do that of course.
     
  8. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    The ground rod and grounding wire won't always save you from lightning strikes. Indeed, lightning can travel through the ground, up the ground rod and into your breaker panel. The grounding system is meant to discharge static such as lightning, which comes in on the utility company neutral.

    The utility neutral (proper term: grounded conductor) enters your panel after passing through your meter. It terminates in a neutral busbar bonded to the panel housing, unless you have a mobile home or you have the breaker panel in the middle of the house instead of an outside wall. In that case you'd have a disconnect outside and the bare ground wire would be connected there, and run to the ground rod. The neutral busbar has the bare copper grounding wire which then runs to the ground rod. So if lightning gets in another way, it's going to damage stuff before it gets to the grounding system.

    Those protectors are a one-time protection unless they've come up with a better one since I left the trade. The problem is, it may have done its job and you don't know it. Next time, it won't do a thing to discharge a lightning strike. I used to recommend them to customers when I installed their services. Some people accepted and some didn't. I guess they thought I was trying to make an extra buck.
    Those are designed for power surges such as when the power goes off then comes back on. It can do some damage but usually doesn't. What does more damage is when there's a brown-out for an extended period. That's a low voltage coming into the house, and it can destroy motors.

    A wise move. Mine kept my computer and monitor running when lightning in the area knocked the power out only for a second, a couple of nights ago. I heard it click, and then a message popped up on the monitor to notify me.

    Incidentally, several years ago a storm took our power out for twelve hours. I rigged up a generator to run my UPS, which ran my computer and a table lamp. When I went to bed something else was plugged into the UPS which drained the battery overnight because I didn't leave the generator running. The next morning I fired up the generator and turned on the computer. Just as it finished booting, it went off. I turned the computer on again and as it booted, it went down again. I thought the UPS was at fault but it wasn't. So I left it and waited for the utility power to come back on. When it did, the computer didn't work. It only took the two surges in trying to start it, to fry the power supply. I know it's not recommended to run a computer from a generator but I figured it would be okay through the UPS. Lesson: If your UPS battery goes flat, wait until it's fully charged before using the computer.
     
  9. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    Right, the meter protector has a red led that will go off if the protector has been compromised, so it's easy to tell if it got whacked by something, so far that hasn't happened.

    The one in the circuit breaker box is a Siemens it too under severe stress will sacrifice itself and show a red light.

    I think all surge protectors are designed to sacrifice themselves should a huge hit smack them, but most will simply stop minor surges and keep on working after the event is over.

    Brownouts are a problem that's for sure, but I can't find that sort of protection for appliances so I'm not worried about it, as long as the computer processor is being protected the motors are usually pretty stable even under a brownout condition. When I lived on Los Angeles we use to get a lot of brownouts and I never had a motor fail, but I did have electronics blow during the one of the Northridge Earthquake aftershocks that shut the power off for about 30 seconds, by the time I got to the circuit breakers the power came back on and everything in my house that was electronic got damaged or destroyed, that's when I decided to get surge protectors in the future, but that surge did nothing to frig motors.
     
  10. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    That's an improvement since I was in the trade. They had no warning lights, so there was no way to tell if it had been damaged, unless it was blown to pieces.
    I never bothered turning breakers off when power went down, and I never had any problems after it came back on.

    I've been called to some odd problems with the utility services. In one case when I put my meter on one hot leg in the breaker panel, it was registering around 200 volts, and 120 on the other hot leg. I called the utility company, and he asked me if I was a certified electrician, because he'd never heard of such a thing. We argued back and forth, implying I don't know what I'm talking about. The problem was found at the pad mount transformer, near the house.

    Getting away from the topic, here, so Bike Bike Bike Bike Bike Bike Bike Bike and lightning storms. :)
     
  11. john wick

    john wick New Member

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    Please following the traffic rule.
     
  12. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    What does that have to do with riding in a storm and lightning, John?
     
  13. BikeCommuteAdvocate

    BikeCommuteAdvocate New Member

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    Biking in the rain is bad enough. Also it seems to me the rubber would act and a good insulator. Still always best to be near a tree if you hear the thunder less than a second after the lightning!
     
  14. Chuckabutty

    Chuckabutty Active Member

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    That's an old fallacy that a lot of people believe. Rubber is a good insulator but that's not what saves you in a car; the metal body protects you. On a bike, you are toast. The best place to be is in a ditch, or roll into a ball if there's no ditches, but don't lay out flat. I live in Florida, the lightning capital of the US, so I've learned a bit about lightning.

    Standing by a tree is not a safe place to be because lightning hits trees and will hit you if you are near it. I've seen what it can do to a tree. I was called out to a woman's house where several of her appliances didn't work, following a lightning storm. She thought the problem was in the house wiring. I found the source of the problem. A hundred feet from her house was a big tree on which her husband had fixed a yard light. The lightning stripped two 2" strips of bark off the tree, one down either side and went into the yard light. He ran a cable from the light, down the tree and into a shed ten feet from the tree. The cord with the plug was not plugged in to a receptacle, and was simply hanging near a fridge. The lightning followed the cord into the shed, flew out from the plug and peppered the side of the fridge with holes. The fridge was plugged into a receptacle, so the lightning continued into the electrical circuit from the shed to the house. From there it went into the breaker panel and then into the various appliances. The appliances were destroyed.

    And this is something to consider: Lightning can strike you ten miles from where the actual storm is.
     
  15. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    The other reason for not being near a tree is lightning will hit the tree and travel through the roots of the tree discharging into the ground however far the roots go. I always laugh when I see tent campers pitching their tents under trees, they do it for the shade but they could be for a shock of their lives should lightning strike that tree...pun intended! Of course such an event is extremely rare, but you never know.

    I once was fishing on a boat out in a lake using a graphite fishing rod, a storm came up pretty fast and it got dark as a result, lightning was going off all around me, when I heard an odd humming sound then I noticed the rod was faintly glowing and the hairs on my arm that was holding the rod were standing up, I took the reel off real fast and cut the line and tossed the rod as far as I could into the lake and the rod sank fast. Lost the rod but maybe saved my life, after that I found out about how dangerous graphite rods were so I never bought another one.
     
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