Damage caused by lightning

During spring thunderstorms, you might encounter hail, wind, and lightning, which can pose a threat to your roof, structure and electrical system of your home. In the event of a lightning strike, your home could sustain significant damage caused by lightning, both visible and hidden.

Lighting typically occurs when negatively charged particles in the clouds collide with positively charged particles on the ground, resulting in a static discharge. During a storm, air currents and moisture interact to create a spark, which discharges the energy built up. Lightning strikes generate almost 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. Lightning often takes the shortest, easiest route possible to reach the ground when it emerges from clouds. Gas and water pipes, electric lines, phone lines, cable TV or internet lines, gutters, downspouts, and metal window frames are all materials that conduct electricity and are more likely to suffer damage caused by lightning. In its rush to reach the ground, the energy is able to branch out and find a conductor once it locates one. Lightning can even jump or arc across conductive paths, a phenomenon called a “side flash.” For instance, lightning can strike a gutter of a home before striking window frames or better grounded water pipes.

Electrical systems can be affected by exterior lighting that strikes a home’s windows, gutters, or other conductive materials. A lightning strike can cause an explosive surge when it travels through electrical wiring. The wires will almost certainly be destroyed, and they may cause a fire as they melt and possibly ignite the material around them. In addition, surges can damage any appliances (particularly electronics like computers and entertainment centers) that are connected to the electrical system. It is wise to unplug appliances, electronics, and other items during a storm; cheap surge protectors will protect against small surges but will not protect against direct damage caused by lightning. Avoid any contact with electrical wires or cords if lightning has already struck your home or has been observed in your area. Both phone and electrical wires can carry lightning long distances, especially in rural areas. Indeed, the most common cause of lightning injuries indoors is telephone usage. Don’t use your landline phone if lightning is threatening.

Lightning strikes during thunderstorms are most likely to strike those near or in water, whether inside or outside the home. It is well known that water is a good conductor of electricity, and metal pipes are also fantastic conductors. As well as lightning striking your pipes, lightning can sneak into your home through shared pipelines that have sustained strikes some distance from your home. You should avoid taking a bath or shower, washing your hands, doing laundry, using an icemaker, or otherwise using running water during a lightning storm.

When lightning strikes your home, it can suffer severe damage caused by lightning. You are at greater risk of fire if your home contains any flammable materials because of the high temperatures. Fires can be started directly by striking something, while other materials can be ignited when current passes through them and heats them to a point of ignition. Lightning strikes can cause flammable gas leaks or explosions in your home if you have gas piping. Lightning strikes may damage valves, regulators, or appliance connectors, causing flammable gas leaks. The stone-coated steel or metal roofs are extremely fire-resistant and can help your home resist lightning damage, even if it seems counterintuitive.

Lightning can travel along the ground for some distance once it has connected the charged air from the clouds to the ground, before it dissipates enough to be harmless. As the currents move along the ground, they strike many victims of lightning strikes. If you are walking in a basement, garage, or patio, wear shoes as lightning can travel through the soil and across moist concrete. Concrete garage floors typically contain wire mesh, which makes them especially hazardous. It is generally safe to enter very dry basements during thunderstorms; however, avoid any contact with concrete foundation walls, which may contain metal reinforcing bars. The current passing through these surfaces can ignite flammable materials in and around your home.

What does thunder actually sound like? It’s actually a shock wave caused by heated air expanding rapidly around a lightning strike. Lighting makes a loud noise, but you can’t see it until you hear the sound. The shock waves we call thunder, however, can be extremely destructive, causing structural damage caused by lightning to concrete, brick, cinderblock, and stone depending on their intensity and proximity. Especially vulnerable to this kind of damage are brick and stone chimneys, as the vibrations can damage the mortar and loosen the flashing (potentially allowing water to leak in through the gaps). It is also possible for thunder shock waves to fracture objects and cause flying debris to be propelled at a dangerous rate around structures. Lightning can strike within 10 miles of you if you hear thunder. Take precautions as indicated here to avoid being hit by lightning. When leaving a protected area, wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Lightning can cause fires or scorching to your home or other structure you are in, especially in the attic. Call the fire department immediately if you are able to put out the flames with an approved fire extinguisher. When your house has been damaged, you should call the fire department even if you don’t see smoke or flames. Fires inside walls and in attic spaces can smolder for hours without being detected. It is especially important not to touch metal window frames, pipes, or electric cords right after a strike. If there is fire or smoke, call emergency services immediately. After the storm passes, examine your home for damage. An experienced contractor can inspect your roof, chimney, roof shingles, siding, gutters, and walls for damage. It may be necessary to replace or repair damaged shingles, siding, insulation, or windows.

Contact us for more information on avoiding damage caused by lightning.

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