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By: Andrea Moyer

image of lightning storm

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for picnics and summer camps, vacations and yep, you guessed it, thunderstorms! You know how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in a storm, but what about your house? How much damage can lightning actually cause to your property? Let’s take a look at the three main dangers lightning strikes can pose to a house and what you can do to solve and/or prevent them:

Three Main Danger Risks:

  • Fire – This is the biggest threat lightning poses to a house.  Most commonly, fires start in the dwelling’s attic, since the channel usually has to pass through some of the structural material in the roof before it reaches the wiring and pipes. Lightning traveling through wires will commonly burn them up, causing a fire hazard anywhere along the affected circuits, which includes behind walls.
  • Power Surge – As we know, lightning needs a primary path or conductor. Explosive surges can damage even non-electrical appliances that are connected if the lightning chooses that particular path. The lightning can take other paths to ground, but even so, the home’s electrical system will experience enough of a surge to cause potentially significant damage to anything connected to it, electronics in particular.
  • Shock Wave – The big thunderclap that comes on the heels of a lightning strike? That is produced by a shock wave, which at close range can easily fracture foundational and building materials, such as concrete, brick, cinderblock and stone. Chimneys are particularly vulnerable to this type of damage. The shock wave that results from a lightning strike has also been known to blow out plaster walls, shatter glass, create trenches in soil and crack foundations. Shrapnel is a common secondary damage effect and objects have been found embedded in walls!

What To Do About Them:

  • Contact your local fire department immediately in the event of fires caused by lightning strikes. That’s pretty much a no-brainer!  Be sure to check behind your walls or consider having a professional electrician check for you, since fires can start anywhere that the lightning has traveled. Keep an eye out for falling debris and check your home’s electrical system for damage.
  • Make sure your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance covers lightning damage, but also consider unplugging any device on which irreplaceable data is kept (such as a computer that contains photos, videos, files, etc.)
  • A lightning protection system is a good solution to all lightning damage risks, especially if you live in an area of frequent lightning activity. 

As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Contact your insurance agent and have them go over your homeowner’s insurance. What does it cover in the event of a lightning strike to your home?  You’ll want to know and you’ll have a much happier summer knowing your home – and your wallet! – are risk-free!

For more personal safety tips during an electrical storm, check out this blog: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/avoid-lightning#.W0-jmg_4EQw.email

Fun Lightning Facts - Did you know that the Catatumbo River in Venezuela is the only place on earth with its own everlasting lightning storm? The mouth of the river is constantly illuminated by lightning and can be seen on the horizon from as far away as the Lesser Antilles (200 miles). The region is located in the western state of Zulia and was awarded the Guinness World Record for the area with the most lightning. Although scientists are unsure as to the exact reasons for this phenomenon, it is possible that the high amount of methane in the region or winds from the surrounding Andes Mountain Range might be contributing factors. It reportedly receives up to 3,600 flashes per hour with displays that can last as long as nine hours!

Posted 2:00 PM

Tags: tips, safety
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