Author Topic: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage  (Read 21919 times)

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Offline MountainDon

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Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« on: July 22, 2014, 09:55:43 AM »
Lightning!  Lightning struck the cabin and three tall pines nearby. It seems likely this happened Wednesday evening, July 16. There was a severe thunderstorm warning for the area that evening. We were not at the cabin; we had left on the 11th. The rain gauge indicated 1.75" of rain and the water tracks on the slopes would seem to back that up.

We arrived Thursday morning the 17th. While Don was outside turning on the power to the inverter, Karen was inside puzzling over the pieces of plastic debris on the floor inside the cabin. When Don closed the breaker to power up the inverter he was greeted by a pop from inside the inverter and then a curl of smoke; the breaker then popped open. Don went inside. He noticed the plastic on the floor was from the wall plate cover for the 24 volt ceiling fan. Looking at the wall he saw the fan control dangling from the wall box. The wall was slightly blackened at one corner of the box and electronic parts were blackened as well.

Damages we discovered included:

The Outback VFX3524M power inverter / charger is non functional and has something burnt inside; smells like the magic smoke escaped.

The Outback FM60 charge controller is non functional and we can see some small electronic parts have been blown open. The magic smoke has definitely escaped. When unmounted from the wall various plastic and semi conductor shrapnel fell out.

The data cables interconnecting the charge controller, hub4 and inverter / charger have blackened connectots. The socket at the charge controller end blew off the circuit board.

The circuit breaker between the PV panels and the charge controller exploded. The top of the casing blew off and a hole was blown out one side. The breaker to the batteries tripped but is apparently undamaged.

The PVC conduit that carries the wires from the PV panels up to the cabin charge controller exploded open in ten different spots over a hundred and forty foot run. At one point the insulation on one of the wires is melted. All breaks occurred at the glue joints.  ???  Only two joints in the 140 feet were undamaged. Further up the hill the conduit was undamaged.

The lightning arrestor on the PV mount pole has the end blown out of it. The ground wire from the arrestor to ground lug has melted insulation.

One fuse in the 24 to 12 volt converter blew violently, incinerating the fuse housing and leaving mostly ash behind. The second fuse housing was intact but very blackened. Unfortunately replacing the fuses did not restore functionality.

The LED Christmas lights strung along the porch and north wall to the shed were severely damaged. One 5 foot stretch had all the LED’s and their sockets blown over a 7 to 10 foot radius. At the back end of the cabin the light wire was blown apart, completely severed. There are flame or electric arc marks on a one foot length of fascia board along the roof gable end.

A join in the aluminum gutter on the south side of the roof was blown apart. There are light grey ghostly trace marks like contour marks on a topo map on the white paint.

There are black scorch marks around the bolt head where a ground wire connects to the metal roof.

At the gazebo where the 120 VAC electrical conduit emerges from the buried line there used to be a 90 degree PVC elbow fitting where the wires enter the gazebo wall. That elbow was blown apart and pieces found up to 40 feet away. That circuit is entirely external to the cabin. The circuit breaker buzzed loudly when trying to reset it. Testing indicates the GFCI outlet that is first in the chain of electrical connections, blew. At least with the GFCI temporarily jumpered the breaker resets.

Three trees approximately 20 to 30 feet from the SW cabin corner show ample evidence of lightning strike. Bark chunks, strips blown off and many small branches littered the ground. We can see strips blown off way up the trunks and closer to the ground. Strangely in the more or less center area of the three trees that were struck  there is an equal sized tree that was untouched.

When I rewired things to by pass the toasted inverter / charger and temporarily connect generator power to the cabin the fan on the propane wall heater ran and would not shut off. That fan is only supposed to run when the heater is hot. There are small scorch marks on the receptacle and heater fan power plug ground connector. One thought is that the lightning power entered the heater via the exterior direct vent ductwork. The ground wire from the fan cord connects to the fan motor which is bolted to the metal combustion chamber. The thermostat switch is mounted to the exterior of the combustion chamber. That switch was found blown apart. ....

The LCD TV will not power up at all. The DVD-R clock lights when plugged in but the unit will not power up. Both were plugged in but the wall outlet was turned off. The TV antenna cable was connected though. The TV antenna lead in wire was connected to a ground rod via one of those coax wire terminal blocks.

The Yamaha inverter generator was connected to the cabin power system via the inverter / charger. The engine starts, but the engine races at maximum speed and there is no power at the outlets. The outlet that is supposed to provide 12 VDC for battery charging produces approx 36+ VDC. It would appear the magic smoke escaped from the generators electronic speed and power control system.

The portable air conditioner ran for 5 seconds and then the LCD display went dark and the motor ceased running. It has not wanted to resume operation.


The good news is that the PV panels are still producing power. The batteries were fully charged with a reading of about 25.3 volts on our arrival and in seemingly good shape. Neither the cabin, out-buildings or the forest caught fire. I wired up a temporary jumper to provide 12 volt DC to the DC powered lights and water pumps. The microwave works as do the other small appliances...using generator power.

Photos to come
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2014, 10:16:09 AM »
There is also a small dent in the metal roofing. Not a downward dent as might happen with a falling object striking the roof, but an upward bulge as is struck from below.

It must have been an exciting time with lots going on.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Redoverfarm

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2014, 10:16:30 AM »
Sounds as if it got you pretty good Don.  I am sure knowing you that you had everything protected or at least thought you did.  Lightning is such a powerful force and it seems irregardless of how we prepare it lets us know who is boss.  Electrical wiring is like a highway for lightning. It can jump to metal several feet away.  Have you pinpointed the location of the initial strike?   Don't remember having these problems with oil lamps and the like. ;)

But on the bright side it could have been a lot worse.  You could have been there when it happened. ;D

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2014, 10:30:47 AM »
Hard to say what went on.  There are so many different damages spread around.   

The DC fan control has no direct connection to the AC outlets on the other side of the cabin where the propane heater, A/C, TV and DVD were connected.

The lightning arrestor was visually okay a week before... they can be weakened by previous strikes.... maybe it was failing, maybe it received a couple strikes or a pulse. ??? 

Also on the bright side I have a new-in-box Outback Flexnet DC I can sell as we'll be rebuilding the system in a different form; different equipment.

Also I had decided to take the Honda EU2000i up in the truck. That provided us with a source of AC power for the appliances that were untouched; microwave, kettle, toaster, blender, tool and cell phone chargers...

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline bayview

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2014, 11:24:41 AM »
Wow! 

I'm sorry about the electrical . . .   

But you were lucky you didn't lose the cabin.

/.
    . . . said the focus was safety, not filling town coffers with permit money . . .

Offline hpinson

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2014, 12:59:29 PM »
Darn. The best laid plans...

Lightning struck about 300 yards away from our place early last September. Saw the flash, thunder almost at the same time, and a puff of smoke in a Ponderosa.  I went over to look the next day and there was not much left of the tree.

Curious if your arrestor was a Delta? I am told that the MidNite Solar line is considerably more effective:

http://www.midnitesolar.com/products.php?menuItem=products&productCat_ID=23&productCatName=Surge Protection Devices. 

Don't remember why, but if you call their engineer he will walk you through it.  I guess there are strikes that nothing much can protect against.



Offline JRR

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2014, 02:45:13 PM »
Sorry you had the lightning damage, but thanks for sharing the story with us.  Lightning is going to happen, I suppose it is the most frequently happening natural danger that there is. And all land areas seem to be at risk.  A storm cloud system moves along, growing in stored energy ... just "looking" for a land feature to strike.  And suddenly there is a house ... such an unnatural and attractive target.  Made of, and so full of, geo-anomalies ....
.
Happy you are OK.
.
I wonder if the dent in the roof is the result of intense thermal expansion.  Had to bulge either up or down .... ?

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2014, 03:44:41 PM »
Curious if your arrestor was a Delta?
Yes. And I was aware that the Midnite was superior ( for many months now);for one thing they have a LED that indicates the unit is still operational.

But I should also have air terminals (lightning rods) on the roofs and really large braided copper down (grounding) wires leading to good ground rods, plates or grids. Apparently.    On the drive down I noticed a distict lack of air terminals on everything except the telephone service buildings.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline hpinson

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2014, 04:32:04 PM »
I have the Delta too.

In other words, extraordinary measures.

If there is any way you can, post some pictures of the damage.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2014, 04:42:57 PM »
I have several photos.....  later tonight


Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Adam Roby

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2014, 05:01:45 PM »
Wow!  That is a scary story, never would have imagined so much chaos.  Sucks that some much was damaged, but I echo the sentiment that firstly neither your or your loved ones were hurt and, thankfully the cabin is still there. 

Would a lightening rod several feet higher than the roof prevented this from happening or reduced the amount of damage?  I guess it is hard to say for sure.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2014, 06:19:37 PM »

Would a lightening rod several feet higher than the roof prevented this from happening or reduced the amount of damage?  I guess it is hard to say for sure.

Hard to say with certainty, but my guess now, is Yes. A good chance.  Though if we say that air terminals (lightning rods) would have prevented the lightning that messed with the roof and exterior lights, was that the same lightning that messed with the DC lines to the PV panels, or was that a separate thing?    I grounded the roof panels based on local advice. I now believe I should have researched more and might have then installed air terminals and the uber size 97/16" braided copper) down wires.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2014, 06:47:12 PM »
Christmas tree LED lights; LED's blown apart, slight scorching on fascia, hard to see with the string still in place




Must have been some big sparks flying here. LED light string blown apart. The LED string made a 90 turn at the eye where it then ran to the shed along with the TV coax and a carrier rope. I'm thinking of spraying a clear coat on that to preserve the memory.




Bottom of one of the struck trees. It's difficult to get good photos of the strips torn off in 8 foot lengths farther up thr trunk. Those extended 50 feet or so up the tree.




One of the other struck trees. We'll have to wait and see if they are affected.




Power line entrance to the gazebo.



That was a fitting similar to this...




The fan speed control. The pot (with the black knob) blew apart and slifgtly scorched the wall as it fragmented the wall plate.




The DC breaker that exploded. This was the breaker at the charge controller in the incoming line.




The FM60 charge controller connections panel. The green data cable connector socket was blown apart. (EDIT: On reflection I think that is the battery temperature cable.) Other assorted debris, some of which is in the bottom of the CC.  Scorch marks.



« Last Edit: July 22, 2014, 07:20:52 PM by MountainDon »
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2014, 06:47:36 PM »
The smallest conduit fracture




One of the longer fractures




And the one section where the insulation was melted




Assorted souvenirs. The white pieces are the fan speed control wall plate. The black device is the DC circuit breaker.   In the center are gazebo box parts and some conduit.




The propane heater fan thermostat




The plug and receptacle it was plugged into




The roof panel; 24 gauge steel. The photo was taken after I gave the bump a couple of whacks and tried to tighten the screw which was backed off or pulled out about 3/4 inch. I need to get some larger gauge screws to be able to tighten that down correctly.




« Last Edit: July 22, 2014, 08:28:45 PM by MountainDon »
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline hpinson

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2014, 07:11:29 PM »
This is the most detail I've ever seen on the effect of a lightning strike on an electrical system.  Thank you for posting these- and they should spark some good discussion!

Offline DaveOrr

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2014, 07:14:52 PM »
Our place took a hit when I lived in Ontario.
No where near as extreme as yours Don. We lost several sat TV receivers, stereo, a vcr, computer speakers, network switch, both garage door openers a couple of telephones and our amplified TV antenna.

The lightning struck the TV antenna (one of those round plastic ones). It blew the aluminum sticker plate with the manufacturer data on it off and it landed in the back yard. There was a pin hole where the lightning struck.
I had a copper ground cable attached to the antenna mast @ the antenna and run to a ground rod 6 foot long.
Also all antenna and sat cables had grounding blocks where they entered the house.

We were home @ the time. No injuries but I did levitate about 3 feet above the couch when it crashed!!!
Could hear a loud buzz a few milliseconds before the thunder.  [shocked]

I have the feeling your damage may have been caused by a multiple strike event.
Hopefully your insurance covers all.
Dave's Arctic Cabin: www.anglersparadise.ca

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2014, 07:18:57 PM »
This is the most detail I've ever seen on the effect of a lightning strike on an electrical system.  Thank you for posting these- and they should spark some good discussion!

I went around with the new Galaxy S5 smartphone having a learning experience.     ;D   Not mine but Karen's 

I plan on opening the VFX inverter case to see what's inside. There's some stuff that rattles a bit, although it is too heavy to really shake much.


When I take the other TV up there I'll see about the antenna amplifier....  not holding my breath though.   :(

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2014, 09:46:50 AM »
Guy on another forum sent me this...


Could be handy.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline flyingvan

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2014, 05:50:02 PM »
...Lucas.....Heh Heh
Find what you love and let it kill you.

Offline Bob S.

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2014, 09:51:26 PM »
Do you think all the work you guy's did cleaning up the pine needles  and  dead logs keep't it from all burning? I think it is great that you still have your retreat in the mountains. I know it is sad to have so much damage, but it could be much worse.
Bob

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2014, 01:31:28 PM »
We'd like to think all the cleanup helped, but we can't say for certain. There was a lot of rain over that time and that likely helped a lot too.

Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Dave Sparks

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #21 on: July 27, 2014, 03:52:26 PM »
Hello Don,

I finally looked at this, but after I e-mailed you. Nice job with the pictures.  The Delta is probably one of the best for a direct hit but the midnight is better at clamping a near-by strike. My experience and John Wiles the guru in your state. He uses both delta and midnight and so do I.

I do not think both would have helped you though. Physical disconnection of 8 feet or more and a sacrificial system for floating the battery as well as lightning rods "may" have helped. Why was the conduit in your pictures above ground?

The dent in the roof from some tree part falling on it?

We were anchored once in Gatun lake near the Panama Canal. At the dock near shore were two sailboats with 50 foot masts.  Between the sailboats was a 60 foot motor yacht (no mast). Guess who had similar damage to you? Yep the motor yacht had been hit and the sailboats were fine. You just can not reason (at some point) with hurricanes and lightning.
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Offline John Raabe

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #22 on: July 27, 2014, 05:49:49 PM »
This is an awesome photo story about the power of electrical storms. Do you think that was all from one strike? There were sure a lot of pieces of equipment completing the circuit and it's just as well you weren't there to join the display. It makes us all wonder how our own setups would fare.

We're on grid power and have had surges that have blown out a microwave and an electronic hot water pot but nothing like this. Never had any lightening strikes nearby.

Your cabin site and the nearby tree would not appear to be particularly inviting for a lightening strike. 
« Last Edit: July 29, 2014, 08:39:16 AM by John Raabe »
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Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #23 on: July 27, 2014, 06:30:20 PM »
Love John Wiles!!

I will be having both the MN and the Delta at the PV and at the upper end at the CC and batteries. Plus on the AC panel. Brand new ones are sitting in the garage as I type.

I am waiting for a quote on air terminals (the "correct" term for lightning rods   ;D  )  , connectors, braided copper wire, ground rods, miscellaneous stuff....

The roof dent is actually a reverse dent, an uplift an eruption. Strange goings on.

The conduit was/is above ground on the lower section of the hill because it was too steep for the trencher machine and lots of rocks.  Do you think it would be better buried even 6 inches?   


As a matter of interest a friend has donated an Onan genset he rescued from a totalled RV. Probably one of the noisy kind, but it is free.  :)


A physical disconnect might be something to consider. A small "floater" panel and CC as a sacrifice to the lightning gods is also worth some thought.


To the list of damaged equipment I found that we must add the TV preamplifier.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2014, 04:12:53 AM by MountainDon »
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Lightning Strike(s) and Damage
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2014, 06:32:59 PM »
... had surges that have blew out a microwave ....

Weird how things go... our microwave was the only thing with electronics that survived, not counting FL ballasts or the battery powered items here and there.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

 

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