a lightning story

Dan Cook

Dec 12, 2003
Lombard, IL
Yesterday, the Chicago area was rocked by a nasy bow echo, and there was an awsome light show.

This morning, I arrived at work and tried to open the main doors, and the card reader wouldn't read my card. It scanned it, but the display screen just showed gibberish. One of the other custodians let me in.

When I got inside, I knew something was up as only a few lights were working. The principal and secretary were in their office, trying to get the phones working. During the storm, a lightning bolt either hit the school or close by, causing a HUGE power surge. It knocked out the surge protectors protecting the phone system, the electronic key entry system, power to different parts of the building, and the computer network. The router boxes themselves had fried computer parts in them, smoking.

The tech guys think it'll be at least a week before everything is back up.

Crazy. :shock:
The only experience I've had with a close lightning strike and electronics, except for lightning zapping my dial-up modem a few years ago, was back when I was a kid.

It was in the early 80s and I was asleep when a thunderstorm came through. It woke me up and, being very groggy, I couldn't quite focus my eyes for a moment, and then I saw the most eerie ghostly glow on my little black and white TV across the room. It scared the heck out of me as a small child... it really looked ghostly.

Then a buzz-crack! And lightning hit a power pole in the alley behind us. Scared me back under the covers. In the morning, everything was working except the microwave and my TV.

That glow was going for a good 10 seconds before the strike.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

This year I have seen quite a bit of "fried" equipment at a few of the schools where we have contracts. Most of the damage occurred at the network stations where no surge protection was being used. Luckily we have not had any failures on our servers and routers. This is mainly due to the fact that we use APC battery backups and other protection.
my only experience with a close lightning strike was a few years back. i was calmly sitting in my chair in my room at my computer while a thunderstorm was rolling through. i got up to go to the kitchen when i got to my doorway and looked out the window of the bedroom across the hall and i saw the brightest flash i've ever seen, heard the crackling of the lightning coming down and the thunder was unbelievably loud. come to find out, the bolt hit about 20 yards across the street in some trees that lined the neighbors driveway. the weird thing is, both computers were on, and the only thing that got fried was my phone box where the telephone cord plugs into the wall. the lightning was so close that it made the phones ring...lol
Could have been killed by just a few steps

In 2000, I was doing my usual duties as morning weather anchor for a tv station (actually, I still am), and happened to notice a little activity on radar to our Southwest... I decided to turn on, our lightning display layer for our live radar(feed from NLDN), which then displayed one single strike in the county south of our location. I then exited the weather office into the studio and was 5 feet past the door, when...

...as if hit on both sides of my head by two-by-fours... BAM... an explosion of sound like nothing I had ever heard before... absolutely deafening, and heart-stopping at the same time. At that same instance, a brilliant flash occured in the light racks above me(15 ft. above). I fell to my knees out of sheer stunned dis-belief. Floor crew members rushed toward me from our main studio and faced me, eyeball to eyeball with expressions of ... what just happened.

This was pre 9-11, so terrorist type thoughts didn't enter my head, but lightning did. So I turned around, stepped the few feet to the door of the office, and looked through the window into the weather office and saw dust rolling (roiling?) in the air as if the air itself had been energized. Nearly $500,000 in damage occured from a single lightning strike to the radar tower positioned just 5 feet from our building which is just outside of our weather office. Most of the equipment in the office was destroyed, as well as video and pc equipment all across our company offices. An expert later commented that had I been in the office, I could very likely have been killed.

Two weeks later, I started a company that developed a live 3d lightning display system.... um... yeah, you could call it motivation from above.

To this day, I'm still uneasy being in the office in the midst of heavy lightning storms... It's my job, but that memory always remains in my mind when that occurs.
In the summer — January this year, I think — lightning hit a power pole across the road from our house, and the weird thing was that apart from deafening, house-vibrating thunder, there was no disturbance to the power; ones further away have at least made the lights flicker . . . but I know lightning hit the pole because, the next day, it had a visible crack running from the top of the pole to about 6 feet above the ground, and parts of the exterior of the pole had flaked off like bark from a tree, along a slightly jagged but mostly vertical line. It still looks like that. 8)
About 11 years ago, my family was getting out of the car, having just arrived at small my parents/siblings picnic in Mt. Angel, OR.

Overhead, a weak thunderstorm was rumbling (about the only kind we get around here) and no one was paying much attention since the gathering had moved under cover.

I was just closing my car door when there was a flash and a huge boom! :shock: and about a block away all you could see was pieces of tree floating down about the area.

After a bit, I walked over to see why so many people had gathered, and found, in the backyard of an old classmate, 4 75 ft tall redwood trees that had literally exploded. Many of the branches were blown off, and the trunks had splintered. Bits of red bark littered about a two square block area, and a wooden gazeebo that had sat right next to the trees was in pieces.

Amazingly enough, no windows on their house, or any other home, were broken. They were not home, but being a close-knit small town where everyone knew everyone, many worked the woods, and everyone had chainsaws, I think the trees were down and stacked as firewood before they got back.

I have been closer to lightning strikes, but that was the most exciting.