What the heck caused this?!?!?!


I also posted this in the equip section:

Ok... here is something that happened to my scanner... this is really weird. I was chasing a storm South of Limon Co yesterday, and I am driving around on some dusty dirt roads just south of the town. I stop to take a few pix of a nice cell... had minimal lightning. Also at this point I loose my scanner signal to static... I think nothing of it. I turn the car off. I hear this ticking that is occuring on a regular frequency.... a click every second or so. I have no idea where it is coming from... I finally realize that it is coming from outside the car. I pinpoint the exact area and the ticking is coming from my scanner antenna, which is a magnet mount. The only other antenna is my wilson magnet mount for my cellular. I immediately realize that it is some sort of electrical arcing between my scanner antenna and the car (I should note that the magnet at the base of the antenna used to have a vinyl covering that came off some time ago, so it is the metal magnet directly touching the body of the car). I know I am dealing with something electrical (duh), so I do not touch the anenna with my hands, I take a CD case and push up the antenna enough to look under the magnet.... THERE IS AN SERIOUS ARC OCCURING on a regular freq. between the body and the magnet... I can see it!! It looks like those hand held stun guns that arc between the metal contact points. I figure that I am NOT going to touch that thing and just continue chasing... the scanner is out... just static... the ticking had stopped.

I get into Goodland later that evening, and just knock the antenna with the CD case, and nothing happens. Now my scanner is fried, and I am totally perplexed.... what the heck happened????????
Ever hear of "Impending Doom"? "Dodging a bullet"?

Given your description here, I'd venture a guess that you were about to become yet another Lightning Target. Since a scanner is not a transmitter, you can rule that out. The scanner antenna is presumably taller than the Cell antenna, thus making it the conduit for the atmospheric energy. The arcing, I would think was simply the poor conduction between the antanna base and the ground (car surface).

Lightning has been known to follow smoke trails from rockets and the dust being thrown up by the travel down the road may (or may not) have had a certain static charge as well.

Anyway, that's my very un-educated SWAG. As we all know (or should know anyway) if you can see the lightning, you're certainly at a potential risk. "A bolt from the blue" applies here, I would think.
That's interesting. I was chasing in that area, heading SE toward Kit Carson (under mammatus) and found I couldn't use my HAM radio. Everytime I touched it, I would get a shock, like static electricity. I wasn't a severe shock but noticeable. I use a handheld Yaesu attached to a magnetic antenna. The cord goes out in the door crack of my right rear door. It is not grounded. My cell phone, attached to another external antenna was charged to a lesser extent. As far as I can tell, no damage to the equipment.

Bill Hark
It is interesting that you mention that... prior to the clicking... 15 - 20 min or so, I went to adjust the scanner (it is a hand held model), and when my hand came in contact with the metal coupler that connects the cable to the unit I got a mild shock. Very weird indeed.
Oh man, not to get off topic... But the same thing happened to our motor home. We forgot to ground the battery, or something, and whenever you would touch the outside of the motor home, you would get one hell of a shock! I guess it's a way to keep intruders out :lol:

Anyway, if you did come close to getting struck by lightning, your pretty luck you didn't :shock:
This is corona discharge. Very common under highly electrified clouds (e.g., the thick cumuloform anvils of supercell overhangs). Any metal point like a radio antenna may bleed a small electrical discharge. You'll hear the zipper noise on the AM radio as well. Sometimes it is strong enough to hear a faint zipping noise standing outside the vehicle (which you shouldn't be doing!). If conditions are right, you can actually see a faint greenish glow. In fact, the P-3 aircraft that collected data in MCSs saw this all the time eminating from their nosecone. And I've actually heard corona discharge inside convective snowfalls.

As for your radio and antenna lead - I've seen this before and have also received the shock. What you need to do is complete the circuit - I assume you did not have the radio grounded (e.g., via the electrical outlet) since this also happened to me. When I grounded the radio, the shocks went away, although you still hear the corona zipper sound on the radio.