Arke Stairs
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Lightning, When it Strikes Home

Some weeks stand out for various reasons, some good, some bad and others reach that level that make us shake our head and wonder what wrong we must have done to be singled out by nature for punishment.  One week ago Sunday, my mom’s house greeted me in an eclipse of darkness that had engulfed the entire area.  A large cable lay in her front yard and the power was obviously out.  A summer storm, had obviously taken its toll, wind, lightning and heavy rains.  Upon entering the darkened house, the smell of candles gave a Christmas Air to the otherwise oppressive and humid heat. Once the power came back on we all searched for electronic devices that might have been damaged by the lightning strike. Sure enough, the satellite receivers, a radio and the garage door opener were all dead.  So on Tuesday I began the replacement of the garage door opener. By Wednesday I had the new garage door system  in, and the satellite company had brought out new boxes.The episode seemed to be over. Mom didn’t file the garage door opener and the radio on the homeowner’s policy, since the deductible and the damage were almost the same.

Friday afternoon had been hot, but some time after lunch, from the office windows I had noticed clouds gathering in the distance. Dark and ominous clouds, but dark and ominous clouds are just part of the summer landscape in the Deep South.  A little later, the dark clouds began to empty their swarthy contents and the lightning came. One lightning strike is all I remember hearing, but it briefly knocked the power out and the server had to be reset. I was glad I had not already left for the weekend and was here to make sure everything powered back up after an outage. I had changed the settings on the server earlier in the month and this was the first test to see whether I had gotten them right.  The office server runs Windows 2000 and frankly I am rusty with its controls as the last time I had run this OS on any of my servers was seven years ago.. So frankly, I had my doubts regarding my ability to get it right when working on older computers. Thankfully, the systems rebooted without incident. So I departed the office to run by mom’s and pick up the big truck to take to the lake.

Driving up the street, I began to see what appeared to be plastic pots in the street in front of her house. I thought they were the little pots that come on plants that are taken off before planting. But the closer I got, I recognized the shape as that of irrigation valve covers. Why were three of these in the street? Maybe a landscape company had dropped them off of one of its trucks.  Then in the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of water running down the slope of her front yard.  I parked and went over to inspect the water.

Approaching the  running water’s source, I began to see masses of wire, white plastic and a large hole.  On the tree next to the hole were the tell tale signs of lightning. The blaze that wrapped the tree as if a juvenile with a knife had scaled the tree and spun himself down using the knife as a brake to slow his fall, tearing bark as he went leaving a spiral screw pattern leading down the tree.  Twice in one week, getting hit by lightning, what are the odds.  And once again, I began the process of checking to see what the lightning had zapped this time.  Remember, the garage door opener I installed two days earlier. It was dead. The alarm system was calling the house every few minutes and making an other earthly noise.  I turned on the new big screen television she had gotten for her 80th birthday and nothing. When my mom arrived a little later, I hated to tell her that once again, the house had been hit by lightning, twice in just five days.  I could tell by the look on her face and the tone of her voice, she had those fleeting feelings of guilt or remorse that we get when our luck goes from bad to worse. As if God had taken time from his busy schedule to make sure we had been sufficiently punished in order to lead us back to subjugating to his will.  I knew her present feelings were just expressions of frustrations and would soon vanish.

My own thoughts found the irony of the previous night of having problems sleeping and in the early hours watching a fascinating show on lightning and thinking I should try and install a lightning rod system.  The more I thought about the possibility of doing such a project, I began to think about where the lightning had actually hit.  There was a time when lightning was hitting the chain link fence that surrounds the acreage of her backyard.  The lightning would then bridge the gap between the house and the fence and do its damage.   The past week’s strikes were also external, two trees and the sprinkler system.  By adding a lightning rod system to the roof line of her house, would I actually have prevented the lightning damage.  I don’t know.  The whole house surge arrestor obviously doesn’t seem to intercept the lightning surges.  The one thing the past week has taught me again, is that the power of lightning is far greater than most of us can grasp. Respect it, Protect against it, but don’t ever take it for granted.  Surge protectors are a good place to start. Install them on not only computers, but televisions and any other electronic devices that you want to protect against lightning.

Lightning obliterated the sprinkler system
Lightning bolt scarred the tree next to the sprinkler system

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