Electronic Design and Family Site
The Lightning Strike of 2014!

I'm making popcorn in the kitchen listening to the distant rumble of thunder. I finish and walk towards the living room. Then:


Literally out of nowhere with no advance warning (except the distant rumble that seemed 5 or more miles away) my antenna mast got hit. My wife said she saw flames coming off the top of the METAL mast over my shoulder. By the time I turned around, it was over. Then, the storm started in earnest, so I couldn't go out to assess the damage - but I kept a steady eye on the small windows of my shed looking for flames. The storm and its lightning lasted nearly 4 hours. All the while I sat waiting pensively to see what had been destroyed.

Finally we had enough of a break in the storm that I dared to run out to the shed. I tried to turn on a light but it wasn't working. I tried another light on another circuit, but it was also out. Finally, I tried a stereo nearby. No dice. It appeared I'd lost the buried power feed to the building. I sniffed for smoke but detected none "Whew, at least I don't have a fire to put out!".

I spent the rest of the night in a panic about the extent of the damage, blaming myself for being careless about something as important as lightning protection, hoping there was no damage to my home's connected wiring, hoping no neighbors had experienced collateral damage, etc. Since it was after dark, I couldn't explore any of these issues to see the extent. I got very little sleep that night.

The next morning the very first thing I did was take the mast down. There was extremely little visible damage; just some small pits at the joints of the interconnecting pieces. I then took a more thorough look around my shed and was slightly reassured. The building looked utterly unaffected other a small area of flashing under the roof line next to the mast that had melted. Some poking around with a meter showed that the power was in fact present on the building's feed, just that everything I tried to turn on was not working.

I bought new light fixtures and later that day dug in to try to repair some of the seemingly "minor" damage. One light had simply broken a conductor at the plug end. Very minor job of reterminating. The stereo had blown its fuse. Sadly, the fuse was built into the primary of its power transformer, so it was a lost cause. I discovered that I was getting no voltage from some remotely mounted solar panels. I had blocking diodes between the individual panels, and suspected one or more had been blown. To my surprise, once I had the panels down, I noticed that the area where the electrodes meet the glass was cracked all the way around the junction. I guess the excessive energy "blew" the connection from the material around it. To the garbage can with them! Finally, I worked on the last light fixture. After replacing the fixture and the plug with no success, I traced the wiring to discover this:

That's an outside wall of my shed. I guess I simply got lucky that there wasn't a fire from this event.

I spent a terrified night panicking about the affect of this event. I don't ever want to go through that again.

But, much like other events in my life, if it was going to happen, this was the best time for it to happen...I was remodeling the shed. Every radio was disconnected and stored on shelves; my test equipment was completely disconnected and my brand new oscilloscope was in the house. The station computer was also in storage and its monitor was in the house. Virtually every expensive or crucial piece of equipment I own was as protected as it could be. Yet another happy coincidence!!

Lucky or not, I will take steps to minimize the damage should another strike occur. I have purchased heavy-duty AC Line Surge arrestors. Once the station is put back together, I will move the antennas away from the shed and use coaxial surge arrestors on each feedline. I also plan to upgrade my station grounding.

Let's cross our fingers that this event will be the last lightning strike I ever encounter.