July 20, 2006

Crazy storms....

Here in Madison last night and again just before dawn. Lightning can strike you through the window, can't it? I was worrying about that a few minutes ago. The strikes were so close. My grandmother told the story of standing at the kitchen sink and then coming to, lying on the kitchen floor. She'd been struck by lightning, she said. I was never sure whether to believe it, but as a young girl, I used to worry about sleeping with a bobby pin in my hair. I imagined the metal would attract the lightning.

In the middle of the night, last night, the blinds were crashing back and forth, and this morning, I saw that one screen -- were the attachment levers all the way down? -- had blown in and was lying on the floor, leaving a large window completely open for what must have been hours. Did anything fly in? I'm going to assume nothing was flying around out in the rain in the dark or, if it was, that it wouldn't have found that opening. There were leaves scattered on the floor though, and my computer was sitting in a puddle of water. It's working, but its keyboard seems to be shot. Yes, I know, normal people close the windows in a big, windy storm.

29 comments:

al said...

We're getting the same storms right now. Nice rumblely (not sure thats a word) thunder and impressive lightning. We would have had the windows open last night were it not so hot and humid at bed time.

Jennifer said...

Good thing the brand new Applicious goodness was in your office. (Presumably with the windows closed.)

JohnF said...

Lightning that is headed for earth is not "looking" for metal. It is just looking for the lowest-resistance path to earth (which naturally is aided by metal pathways). It is thus highly unlikely that lightning will come into your house. There are simply too many alternative ways to the earth outside, including wet trees or exterior house surfaces.

Of course, a lightning bolt can cause a shock wave near your house that can blow out screens and windows.

Bissage said...

al: Scroll halfway down.

John Hawks said...

Keyboards usually will come back if you hang them until they're dry and don't try to use them; there's not too much in there to short out.

ak21 said...

My brother's house was struck by lightning a few years ago. It blew out the TV and the controls on the microwave oven. My sister-in-law had been doing dishes in the kitchen sink and said she was lucky that her hands were out of the water at the moment of the strike. Whether it's true that the charge from lightning can travel through metal pipes in a house, I don't know. But if it is, maybe that's what happened to your grandmother?

My father had me terrified of "attracting lightning" when I was a kid. We had to unplug everything in the house whenever it stormed. He was also big on spontaneous combustion (no clothes in the attic in summer!). I appreciate him for being careful and worrying about safety, but he did leave me with a vague fear that anything can explode at any time for no reason.

Mike said...

I guess I'm not normal, Ann. I didn't get up to close the windows last night.

I am about 250 ft from the radio tower on the Hoyt park hill. I believe it was hit twice in the morning storm, in rapid sucession. It was my alarm clock this morning, as my power is out, again :( But fortunately, I didn't have a big hole where **** could fly in.

al said...

Bisage: Thanks - I managed to spell it wrong. Funny thing - my son and I were singing that song a couple of days ago. He's 20.

DaveG said...

MythBusters addressed the question of lightning coming through phone wires and/or the shower, and determined that it could only happen if the ground wire from the house is broken, IIRC.

Also, I believe glass is an electrical insulator (as is pure water, somewhat counter-intuitively) and therefore would bar lightning from entering the house via a window.

Mike said...

It seems to me that lightning can enter a house. For example, it hits the metal pipe that houses your electrical service where it goes through the roof and flows through that to the fuse box. From there it could follow the metal conduit and, potentially, the water pipes.

kimsch said...

we had the same storms starting about 4 - I'm about 2 hours southeast of you by back roads, not 90 or 94 - there's still thunder rumbling off to the east over Lake Michigan...

Like Al, we might have had some slightly open windows if it wasn't so hot and humid at bedtime.

OctaneBoy said...

I love a good storm. What you got last night could have been an atmospheric recycling of what swept through Saint Paul about 10AM Wednesday. It was midnight-dark for a while. Very cool.

As far as you grandmother's lihgtning story, I can tell you that you can get a zap from contact with metal even if you aren't hit directly. About 25 years ago, we pulled off the freeway during a severe storm in South Dakota. We pulled into a parking lot next to a building, and when that building took a lightning strike, I got a zap on the arm from the metal ashtray in the armrest. So much for the theory that tires are absolute insulation.

Ann Althouse said...

Lots of downed trees out there, notably in Resurrection Cemetery. Some traffic lights are off too. At Mineral Point and Whitney Way, cops were directing the traffic.

Maxine Weiss said...

It's a cruel summer, and we aren't even half through.

God's wrath is raining down.

Peace, Maxine

Blondie said...

Edgewood College's campus lost a few big trees too.

I woke up when the storm started and it was violently windy there for a while ... which explains why the cable it out in my neighborhood.

I couldn't get Charlie Shortino's wacky weather report this morning ...

james said...

Google a bit for lightning induced voltages. Anything that can act as an antenna can wind up with some rather interesting voltages along it. Read this, for example. The currents in a lightning stroke are high and the time scale is short, so the change in magnetic field is large, and the large dB/dt gives large electric fields and the occasional zap well away from the lightning strike zone.

Goesh said...

you better be checking for bats under the bed - they've been known to burrow into mattresses when driven from their natural habitat by violent storms. they have a different biological clock and will huddle passive and dormant for several days after a bad storm like that.

Lars said...

"large window completely open for what must have been hours. Did anything fly in?

Better check for squirrels again. We get your storms Thurday aft. Batten down, Lars.

Last August our house was hit by lightning. No obvious damage to the exterior but the computer, garage door opener, A/C, stereo and garbage disposal were all fried. At the sametime, TV and other kitchen stuff were OK. Weird.

gckozrBush's fault for sure.

Bob said...

Your description of the lightning and the wind and then finding a screen blown in come morning sounds like something from a Lovecraft story. Just ignore the glowing winged eyeball-creature and it will leave you alone. Glad to help!

MadisonMan said...

The thunderclap at 6:45 near West High was a real open your eyes wide type of thunderclap!

Pastor_Jeff said...

A monster storm his us here in St. Louis around 7:00 PM last night. It knocked out power for about 500,000 people and businesses.

There are still about 350,000 without power (including your truly), and the weatherman is forecasting 105 degrees today with a heat index of 120. The water company is encouraging the northern half of the metro area to boil water before drinking -- tricky with an electric stove.

Life goes on.

Enochs said...

Obivously, since I too live in Madison, I had the same experience you had at 3 and 5am this morning. The scariest part of the storm was at 5am when the roaring thunder sounded like asteroid impacts in my backyard. It's fair to say I am afraid of lightning because when I was very young, I used to love watching lightning storms, but one day as I watched from my balcony, lightning struck a light post only 30 feet away from me. I went deaf and blind for several seconds and am now easily startled when lightning is near.

Jennifer said...

Right now its pouring rain with thunder that has shaken the house at points and lots of lightning. I think it might clear up in time to get my son to soccer practice in a few hours. North Carolina is weird.

Korla said...

> you better be checking for bats under the bed

Oh, geez, you're gonna keep Ann up at night!

What was that noise?!

Ann, didn't you have a bat bite you once before?

P. Froward said...

It's not the bats, it's the alligators. They can be driven hundreds of miles from their usually migratory routes by a big storm, and when they find themselves in a strange environment, they seek warmth.

And then of course you have the killer bees.

P. Froward said...

s/usually/usual/, dammit.

Ann Althouse said...

According to the National Weather Service, lightning can enter through the window and you should stay away from windows during a thunderstorm!

(And stay off the phone.)

Susan said...

Even, it would seem, the cell
phone
.


word verification: nnnzd (the sound your appliances make as the power surge makes its way through your house)

LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

Stay away from the windows, stay off the phones, and for crying out loud unplug all your electronic gear!