The thunderous lightning crack temporarily deafened the Andersons. Plunged into darkness as the power failed, the shocked couple rushed upstairs to check on their children. Family members were frightened but unharmed. Their house, on the other hand? It needed an immediate hand from Paul Davis: shingles littered the lawn and a large branch rested on their front gutter.
“This family was really lucky,” says Brady Chuckel, President, Paul Davis of Southeast Wisconsin. “It’s a myth that you are safe from lightning just because you are inside your house. It’s a safe space as long as you avoid certain items: corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. And what you hear is true: it isn’t a good idea to use running water during a thunderstorm.”
Amazing fact: lightning travels at about 435,000 kilometers per hour. A bolt would reach the moon in 55 hours.
What should you do if one of nature’s most violent forces threatens your home? As with many disasters, the key to reducing impact is acting before the sky darkens. When thunderstorms threaten, steer clear of wires and pipes, anything that can conduct electricity. Unplug electronic devices like computers, televisions, video game consoles and the like. Ideally, install a whole house surge protector prior to thunderstorm season.
Amazing fact: Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo receives more lightning strikes than anywhere else on the planet. Hours-long storms thrash the lake 140-160 nights a year.
If lightning strikes your home, ensure that everyone is unharmed and then ring the fire department. It’s risky to wait until you smell smoke or a burnt odour: lightning can ignite hidden fires or superheat household materials to dangerous levels. Professional help is likely needed to determine the extent of interior damage: electricians to test wiring and plumbers to pressure test plumbing. Many homes suffer appliance damage – to dishwashers, air conditioners, water heaters, televisions – as well.
Amazing fact: lightning kills trees by instantly boiling sap and moisture below the bark. This flash heating can blast bark off violently.
When the danger clears, inspect the exterior building envelope. Are shingles missing? Has the force of the lightning bolt damaged paint, siding or downspouts? “The impact can be very destructive, cracking masonry, brick and cinderblock. It can even shoot shrapnel that hits other objects at tremendous speed,” Chuckel explains. “Sometimes the damage is obvious but often a building professional needs to inspect the premises to ensure safety.”
Amazing fact: Lightning is about five times hotter than the sun’s surface yet individual bolts are slim. The channel itself is about as wide as your thumb.
Home lightning strikes can be very expensive. Paul Davis helped coordinate with this family’s insurance carrier to cover the costly repairs. “When all was said and done, the Andersons lost all the circuit boards on their air conditioner and water heater,” Chuckel concludes. “They needed a new range hood, several new circuit breakers and a new cable connection for their television. That was in addition to the exterior damage.”
When lightning strikes, call your local Paul Davis office or dial 800-661-5975. This Is No Time For Second Best®