View Full Version : Too Close For Comfort...Lightening.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 22, 2012, 05:39 PM
We had some excitement here yesterday evening when a severe thunderstorm rolled through. I was doing chores and could hear it coming. A quick look on my smart phone to the radar showed it was only minutes away so I drove our gator into the barn and parked near the back door in the aisle. I watched a bit and then the storm arrived with amazing ferocity.

Scared stiff I kept trying to see what the horses were doing..we have a number that live outside only and they all have sheds. A few close strikes really worried me but I could see most of the animals had taken cover. We then had a hit that almost knocked me off my feet. You know it's close when you get the instant flash/bang but when you FEEL it like a physical impact and a shock wave...wow....that's what it was like. Immediately I noticed a burnt smell...about half panicked I thought the barn had been hit and was burning. It's cinderblock but the roof is wood with steel sheeting. I could see nothing burning but the smell was crazy.

My husband ran out to the barn about then and we both could smell it. We still did not realize what it was. He helped me finish chores when the storm let up and when we got back he said he wanted to check the fencer. It is located in the last stall in our barn up in the eve and ties into three ground rods that run alongside the barn. I was standing about 12' from it when that bolt hit as I was right next to that stall.

Mr. DDB found that the fencer was DOA...it was totally blown apart...literally in pieces. Scary as crap. He disconnected it and we checked the wiring in the barn which seemed ok...breakers tripped and all seemed OK. Too late to try and figure out where it hit at that time but it was clear it didn't hit the barn but fed back somehow into the barn/fencer.

I found it this morning while doing chores. A fencepost alongside the barn about 60 feet from where I was standing had been hit. Here is a pic:

You can see the top insulator was blown down into the crack and is now sticking out by the second insulator. Interestingly, the ash tree right next to it is fine. The Horseguard tape is ruined along the top strand all the way back to the fencer connection which was about 60 feet from that point. We don't know if it travelled back through the fence all the way or if the ground rods that we between me and the fence might have helped stop the force of the strike...no idea...but it was like an explosive went off near me and I've felt that sort of shock wave before.

It is amazing how freaky this is...that the post was mainly left intact as well as the tree. Best we can tell that was the only damage. I'm grateful it did not hit the barn, me, or any of the horses. I've not seen a storm that bad with lightening like that in years.

Just a reminder to take cover and don't take chances. Lightening terrifies me as I had a near miss years ago when I was out in Utah hiking in the mountains. When it starts hitting, I find a "safe" spot. Here I'd taken cover and was still frighteningly close to a dangerous strike!

Jul. 22, 2012, 05:54 PM
Glad you and your loved ones and horses are all okay! I'm so glad you had grounders.
One barn I was at had a lightening rod, and it took the hit during a bad storm. I don't see them much anymore, but I used to see them on houses.

Jul. 22, 2012, 06:03 PM
Wow, that was close! It was quite the storm. The wicked one last month blew out two of my fence chargers. I now unplug them if I think we are going to get storms.

We do have lightning rods on all the barns and shelters. They have been struck before and that is a scary sight. Glad you and yours are all OK.

Jul. 22, 2012, 06:07 PM
I used to keep my broodmares at a huge breeding farm in PA. The mares lived in giant pastures until they got close to foaling then they were brought in to monitor. They were fed from feeders attached to the fence. One day lightning struck the fence and traveled along the wire killing 6 of the piggier mares who were scavenging the ground for any dropped grain. Thankfully my mare had just moved off like most of the others when their tub was empty. Totally heartbreaking and terrifying.

Jul. 22, 2012, 06:27 PM
That was very close, very scary.

Glad you are ok.

Jul. 22, 2012, 07:53 PM
Something similar to that happened to me a few years ago. I was in the house, in the family room which is parallel to the paddocks. I was watching the weather channel to see where the storms were, and I suddenly felt the weirdest sensation in my hands and arms. Cant explain what it felt like, just weird. A bolt of lightening hit the fence post directly in a straight line form me about 100 feet away. We didnt know it got hit, but we knew it was close. My poor horse was suddenly out in his paddock spinning around and obviously very upset. We waited till it let up a bit and then went down to try to get him to go inside his stall (stalls are left open with access to paddock) but he would not come in. He was terrified. We still didnt know the fence had been hit, but after the storm left we found where the lightening had hit---about 50 feet from where my horse was standing in his stall, it hit and shattered a wooden fence post in two, and burned the electric wire on the top rail. The rails went flying and parts of the post were stuck straightup in the ground 50-60 feet away. We figure my horse stood there and saw it hit and was dazed and confused. I know I felt it for sure and he was a heck of alot closer than I was. Thank fully he was standing on rubber mats and it was just the fence post that got hit and not the barn. He is still afraid of thunder and lightening even today, and its been a few years now. Very scarey for sure.

Jul. 22, 2012, 11:34 PM
Very scary indeed. Just keep in mind when 'taking cover' that things like concrete typically have rebar running through. 13 yrs ago I had just left work and arrived at my parent's house during a crazy thunderstorm. I dashed from the car and onto their attached (dry) carport . I was standing well underneath when a bolt hit nearby and knocked me up in the air. It felt like it hit my right elbow and ran down/out my left foot but they said it was the reverse. Needless to say, I don't hang around anymore when storms hit. DH goes outside sometimes and sits on the porch in the middle of them and drives me crazy!

Jul. 22, 2012, 11:40 PM
I lost a horse on July 10th due to a lightning strike,. I will never again consider it a harmless thing that will just pass over. FWIW..he was not out in a field, lightning hit the barn and he died in his stall.

Jul. 22, 2012, 11:47 PM
Growing up in the mountains, our neighbor's barn was hit by lightning that left a good 3'x3' hole in the roof.
It seems to have hit the farm horse directly and also killed the two milk cows and three goats that were stabled there.

As a kid, that left a very big impression, have great respect for lightning.

Jul. 23, 2012, 12:44 AM
We were in the sports field when I was a kid and lightening hit a tree in the field - Split it down the middle like kindling. We were pretty awed, but I've never forgotten the power.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 23, 2012, 07:27 AM
Wow, those are some amazing stories also. Chism, I'm so sorry about your horse. It makes you wonder if bringing them inside really is safer? Or the run ins...unless there are lightning rods to redirect the hit. Mine were out for this storm and all I could do was pray...and I did some of that. It was a terrifying storm.

When I said ground rods, I meant for the electric fence. We don't have lightning rods on barn or buildings. In my experience, they seem to attract lightning but after Chism's experience I wonder if installing them on all the buildings makes sense? In 7 years since we've lived here, this is the first hit we've had that I know of. We get some bad storms and lightning here as we are very open and flat.

My husband thinks if the lightning had not hit the fence which was grounded well, it would have caused a lot more damage. He feels that the electrical surge most likely fed back into the ground rods and fencer rather than into the ground there at the post. The electric tape is ruined from that point back to the point where it is connected to the fencer by electrical cable. Best we can tell the cable is burnt out also and will need replaced.

Jul. 23, 2012, 07:40 AM
We tok a hit in May of last year and one in September. Hit #1 blew out the fence charger and the 48volt transformer in the house air conditioner, and hit #2 took out the a/c motor, blew three breakers, and screwed the barn lights up completely... electrician says it had a capacitive charge build up on the neutral wire...

Frank B
Jul. 23, 2012, 09:17 AM
I've had more close calls with lightning than I care to relate, being a ham radio nut. Several hundred feet of wire stuck high in the air makes a tempting target.

Direct strikes like that are almost impossible to defend against. However, a lightning diverter ( http://www.kencove.com/fence/_detail_MWLA.php ) will often route enough of the energy of very close strikes away from the energizer to prevent damage. They're patterned after devices used at the base of radio towers. They're inexpensive, just make sure the instructions are followed carefully.

Jul. 23, 2012, 09:42 AM
I once had ball lightening roll down the open aisleway and between me and the stall (I was standing about 2 feet from it), past the horse I had on crossties, and out the back door.

Jul. 23, 2012, 09:51 AM
We had lightning hit our fence last summer. Exploded the fence charger and the outlet it was plugged in to. We also lost every ground fault outlet in the barn, our gate operators, and a bunch of computer related stuff. It also blew the fuses on our well pump. We filed an insurance claim as we wanted all of the electric fence replaced because there was no easy way to tell what was good or bad after the strike. The fence by the charger literally had the wires blown out of it.

All in all, we were very lucky and, like you believe the ground rods took the brunt of the hit.

Needless to say, we now have a solar fence charger...

Jul. 23, 2012, 10:00 AM
Ditto the solar fence charger.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 23, 2012, 10:06 AM
I wish I could get by with a solar charger but with all the polytape we have...4 strands and a couple miles of fence...as well as cattle who need a good shock to respect the fence...we can't switch to solar at this point.

We actually are planning to replace the bottom two strands with woven wire of some sort so we can run sheep and free range pigs in our fields as well as containing the poultry better, so when we get that done, that will take us down in our requirements and we might manage with a solar fencer. It will take some time though so we're stuck with electric for now.

Jul. 23, 2012, 12:00 PM
Oh, and the "Storm Guard" exploded as well...

If we ever have a plug in charger again, I will be sure it has a disconnect from the fence, a surge protector, and a dedicated ground rod to the outlet it is plugged into.

The other fascinating thing from our ordeal was the only thing left of the wires from the charger to the ground rods was the insulation, the wire itself was nowhere to be found.

Jul. 23, 2012, 01:31 PM
we unplug ours during the really violent storms now...

Jul. 23, 2012, 05:51 PM
I haven't considered myself invincible against lightning since the afternoon I heard thunder rumbles & went out to bring in a couple of horses.

A little ways from the gate, I suddenly felt a tingling, & the hairs on my arms & the back of my neck went up. Suddenly there was a huge flash & boom, & I was literally blown up & backwards, completely off my feet, & the horses scattered. That was IT as far as me & electrical storms. I have a lot more respect for them since then.

What was funny was, as I was lying there in the grass, I looked up & could see my storm-weenie dogs watching me from the upstairs picture window of the house. Since then, every time a storm is approaching & I tell the dogs they're safe & it'll be okay, my husband turns around & tells them "Yeah right - look who you're listening to. The woman who was nearly a curly fry." Lol!

Jul. 23, 2012, 06:16 PM
I hate it. We got hit at work a few years ago, and it put a hole in the roof I could get my head through. :no:

If I'm doing any work in the fields, I take the truck down with me and get into it if it starts storming.

Blume Farm
Jul. 23, 2012, 07:23 PM
A few years ago I was in my house and a storm was rolling in. I decided to go feed the horses early so as not to get caught in the storm. the run-in/ barn is about 250ft down a hill from my house. I had just poured some grain into my mare's bucket that was hanging on the metal gate, closed the gate and clipped it shut. All of a sudden there was a HUGE "CRACK" sound and I was lifted off the ground and thrown about 4 feet forward landing flat on my face. The two electrical outlets in the barn were blown off the wall and scorch marks were going up the wall about 3 feet. Smoke was coming off the roof of the run-in and you could smell the burning smoke. It wasn't even raining yet and my run-in took a direct hit with me and the horses in it!!

The elctricity went through the gate I had just clipped closed, literally 3 seconds earlier, through my non-climb horse fencing about 300ft. All the gates that run along that side had their clip locks WELDED onto them, the posts the gates are hung from all exploded from the inside out. My mare that was eating her grain from a bucket hung on the gate was vibrating/ tremoring through her entire body. That lasted for 2 days.

If it had been 3 seconds earlier I would have sustained an indirect hit as my hand would have been on the clip locking the gate...one of the ones that was welded shut.

Still scares me to think about it even today!! I now take cover from a storm well BEFORE it even seems like the storm is here. I will NEVER ever hang a bucket again from a fence or a gate. All horses eat out of rubber pans on the ground in their run-in. they all go in their during storms which makes me feel better...prevents them from sustaining a direct hit in a field and if the run-in was to get hit again and go up in flames they could not be stuck inside it. I know things could still happen but I at least feel it is the best option.

Regarding lightning rods...I ordered them and was all set to put them on after the above incident. However, all the research I read was so contradictory as to if they really help or not. Some studies thought it could attrack the lightning. So they still sit in my shed. If anyone has a link to a study that shows the real benefit I'd love to read!!

I have A LOT of respect for Mother Nature!!! Between the lightning strike here in NC, going through 3 hurricanes while I lived in Fl and numerous fires and earthquakes while I lived in CA she has my attention!!!!!!!!!!!

Jul. 23, 2012, 08:03 PM
Um, unplugging a fencer without disconnecting the wires
that attach it to the fence may be of little value if the
fence does sustain an electric current surge (from, for
example, a lightning strike).

Jul. 23, 2012, 08:34 PM
Daydream Believer - Thank you, he was actually my 22 year old daughter's horse, we had owned him 8 years. I had just sent him down to SC in April to be with her. She's simply heartbroken. You hope that when you do lose a horse, it's to old age, expect that maybe you might lose them to colic, sickness or a catastrophic injury, you don't expect to lose them to lightning.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 23, 2012, 08:51 PM
What was funny was, as I was lying there in the grass, I looked up & could see my storm-weenie dogs watching me from the upstairs picture window of the house. Since then, every time a storm is approaching & I tell the dogs they're safe & it'll be okay, my husband turns around & tells them "Yeah right - look who you're listening to. The woman who was nearly a curly fry." Lol!

Hilarious! :lol::lol: I read this out loud to Mr. DDB and he and I had a good laugh! Glad you were OK!

I'm with you...if a storm moves in like that, horses are on their own. I love my horses but I will not die trying to bring them in.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 23, 2012, 08:59 PM
Wow Bluehof...some of you have such horrific stories that make my experience pale by comparison. It sure does drive home just how dangerous a lightning storm is and that we all need to be respectful of Mother Nature.

About two weeks ago, my neighbor who lives about a mile from here was struck on her tractor while dragging the field. It knocked her hair out of the bun she had it tied up in and left a stripe on her back. Scared her half to death. She believes that she is alive due to the tractor frame and the rubber tires.

Someone posted an article as this was on Facebook and apparently only 10-20% of lightning strikes to people are fatal but there can be a lot of damage from burns and other problems that last a while.

Chism...that is just so sad. You did everything you could.

Jul. 23, 2012, 09:33 PM
I came too close to having an out of body experience also.

It had just started thundering off in the distance so I thought I had plenty of time, since the horses all come running when they hear thunder; they get put up in their stalls with a little treat so it has become routine over the years.

THIS time, they did not come (25 acre pasture of varied hills and gullies) so I set out on foot to get them because after all.....I had PLENTY of time. ha.

I found them in a low area under a huge walnut tree, very agitated, and started chasing them home when a big bolt hit the walnut tree and broke off the biggest limb. The good Lord was with us that day because the horses had started to run home and I was not far behind them and we were JUST far enough away (70 feet or so) to avoid the strike or being hit by the big branch.

When I got back up near the barn, the biggest stately red oak tree in the yard was smoking, all the bark on one side was blown off and thrown in little strips and strewn 50 feet away from the tree. I will never forget the smell and the feel of the atmosphere at that time. My husband, who was watching and waiting for me to show up at the barn got a good look at what happened since he was on high ground and said that the lightning bolt split in half and one half got the tree in the yard and one arm of it got the walnut tree that I was near in the pasture.

I do think that the horses knew something, eventhough they didn`t know just how to protect themselves from the lightning because under that tree was the WORST place that they could be but........they were very agitated and did not come up as usual. I would say that, that was the only time in some 20 years that the lead gelding did not bring up the herd and I have not had it happen since, they are always at the gate when it threatens to rain.

Also, I did some research after this happened and found out that nut and fruit trees are more vulnerable to lightning strikes than any other tree. Another side note, we ALWAYS unplug the fencer and disconnect the fence from the fencer when lightning is expected, especially after the building that housed the fencer had the whole corner blown out when lightning hit the fence somewhere not even near the building but traveled the metal fence all the way up to the fencer. We were lucky we didn`t lose the building.

Jul. 24, 2012, 07:17 AM
Um, unplugging a fencer without disconnecting the wires
that attach it to the fence may be of little value if the
fence does sustain an electric current surge (from, for
example, a lightning strike).

The odds around here have proven far greater that the service will get hit, not the fence :=)

Although the first of the two strikes appeared to have set up a ground charge...

I do mean -here- not "as a rule".

Jul. 24, 2012, 03:54 PM
Wow, that's scary! I'm sad for those of you who have lost horses, too... If I didn't have horses, I would love watching lightning. But becasue I have horses, I don't like it at all. Nobody here has lightning rods on their homes or barns; I'm not sure why, but nobody does, so there must be some geographic good reason. I have metal piperail fencing attached to a metal mare motel with a metal roof. In the evenings, I usually have two horses in piperail stalls eating dinner, and one outside. I always wonder if it's better to throw everyone outside prior to a storm, or leave the two in and bring the third one under the roof. If they're all outside, odds are they're all going to stand under the one big tree/tallest object if it rains -- or go stand under the metal roof anyway. And I know you can't really second-guess nature for the best answer. Usually they're under cover if it looks like a monsoon/thunderstorm is coming. But if the weather gets bad, I'm not going to risk myself going out in any lightning, and they're on their own until the storm passes. Sigh. Lightning is powerful stuff.

Jul. 25, 2012, 08:42 AM
Is it safer to bring them in? I worry about the barn being hit, and then a fire where they can't escape.

Frank B
Jul. 25, 2012, 09:01 AM
It's a crap-shoot.

If your barn does have lightning rods, find out where the conductors enter the ground and don't place any livestock nearby. When the strike goes to ground, it will disperse outward from these points, possibly even into the barn itself.

Jul. 25, 2012, 05:06 PM
It's a crap-shoot.

If your barn does have lightning rods, find out where the conductors enter the ground and don't place any livestock nearby. When the strike goes to ground, it will disperse outward from these points, possibly even into the barn itself.

Just found this out the hard way. :( Not sure if the barn had lightning rods, but electricity did hit the barn and being in the barn did not save my horse.

Jul. 25, 2012, 05:30 PM
Now y'all have the crap scared out of me.

What are the best ways to protect a farm from a direct strike? I don't want this happening to me. :no:

Jul. 25, 2012, 11:42 PM
Chism, I am so sorry about your daughter's horse. I heard about the incident, but did not it was her horse.

I had lightening rods put on my barn and run ins in SC. I hope it works. I actually had a lightening rod put on a tree near one of the run ins. Didn't want a horse standing under it.
Pine trees are the worse, they attract lightening.
Lightening scares me.
Glad everyone is safe, and Chism, again, so very sorry.

Jul. 26, 2012, 12:15 AM
bluehof, I'm in NC too. We got a discount from our insurance company for installing lightning rods on our house, barn & run-ins, so the insurance company must think that they work. :winkgrin:

The company (Carolina Lightning Protection) told me that they also install lightning protection on trees.

Since we had the rods installed 28 years ago, none of our buildings have been struck, although a tall redwood tree 50 ft. from our house was blown apart by a strike recently. Our house wasn't damaged. I credit the grounding that the lightning rod company installed for protecting our chainlink fence that the redwood tree touched & our house which the chainlink fence is connected to from any damage.

Jul. 26, 2012, 02:48 PM
Well I just came about 6 feet from getting struck by lightening and getting my horse killed too.

My barn is close to the office, so I leave at 1 pm, get a decent ride in, and am back by 2:30. I checked the radar before I left and saw a hard line of severe storms about an hour out. I tacked up and got about 20 minutes in before I could hear the thunder rolling in and headed in.

I had untacked and sponged off my horse when it hit. I weighed my options, and decided instead of putting him in his stall at the front of the barn we'd stay in the crossties which are in a narrow neck of the barn between the box stalls and the indoor. I knew if there was a tornado, it was the safest spot, as well as being as far away from the water line, electric panel, fencer and any doors/drafts. Also we were standing on dry rubber mats and my toweling him seemed to comfort him and keep his mind off the storm and it was really rolling.

As the storm moved off, a bolt of lightening cracked right on top of us. I saw a flash come down the wall on the side of the crossties and two bulbs, one across the aisle, and the other in the adjacent tack room blew. My horse jumped enough to twist one of the tightly fitted mats.

Lets just say, if I were using chain crossties instead of poly rope, my choice would have killed my horse.

Well... I don't know how much office work I'm going to get done now.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 26, 2012, 04:03 PM
OMG Smartalex! That was close! Thank Goodness you and your horse are OK!

Jul. 26, 2012, 04:42 PM
Scarey, scarey stuff. I feel like my farm is a lightning magnet. I've been thinking of lightning rods too, but I'm afraid they'll attract hits? I'm curious to hear how people feel about them.

My charger, that's mounted in the aisleway, got blown to smithereens when a nearby tree got hit. I called the man from Cameo fencing and he said:
those porcelain arresters are worthless. The big, heavy coil types are good, but expensive. The lightning came in on my fence, looking for ground. It went through the charger to get there. (So, I don't think unplugging the charger will do diddley).

He sent me a diagram for a fix. He vetted his idea through friends at MIT. I'll try to explain. Charger is mounted on wall with fence wire and ground wire coming down. Turn off power. Shave a bit of the wires' insulation off, about an inch, just the inside of the wires, across from each other. Do this about eight inches down from charger. Turn on power. With a screwdriver, or something, move the wires closer together until you get a good spark, arc, across them. Then move them apart just 'til the arc stops. Staple wires to the wall to hold them in that position.
If lightning comes in, it jumps across from the fence wire to the ground wire before it gets to the charger.
I asked if this wouldn't burn the barn down and he said no, it's going to ground regardless, so you're giving it a less damaging way to go.

I dunno, makes sense, but lightning sure is scarey stuff.

Jul. 26, 2012, 05:48 PM
Chism, I am so sorry about your daughter's horse. I heard about the incident, but did not it was her horse.

Thanks five..there were actually two horses struck that night to my knowledge, ours, and one at Lellie Ward's place. So, that may have been the one you heard about.

Jul. 27, 2012, 05:42 AM
I did hear about both, but not the details or who owned them. Just the shock of losing two horses in a storm. I was stunned when you posted it was your daughter's horse.

As far as lightening rods go...I decided to get them installed due to the fact it was SC and large open fields and pine trees.

I did have one lightening rod bulb(just decorative) blow shortly after I had the rods installed. The installer said it could have been a lightening hit and why the bulb blew.

I asked about the protection and basically what happens, or what I was told, is that the lightening if it hits will be directed down the copper wire to the ground. You will never know if it works or not, since you have no proof that lightening hit...in other words, the rods do their job.

The ground rods the installer used were 20'. He uses such long ones because my property is on sandy soil.

Anyhow, that was how it was explained to me.

Daydream Believer
Jul. 27, 2012, 08:16 AM
I grew up in an old two story PA farmhouse that had several lightning rods. That house got hit frequently. The rods generally worked but we found out the hard way to avoid the bathroom when storms came in.

My Mother was bathing my little sister in our big bear paw tub right as a storm was coming in. We were in a hurry as we were going somewhere. All of a sudden a bolt came and you could tell the house had been hit again...very very close and there was a ZZZZZTTTT! kind of sound...weird. Then a scream and my sister, naked and covered in soap...and my Mother right behind her...showed up in the living room...both scared to death. Apparently, the moron who installed the lightning rods ran the ground line down by the plumbing/fresh water line. Yup...so when lightning hit, sparks would fly out the bathtub spigot. Why my sister wasn't killed, I have no idea...thankfully she was OK..but from that point on, no one in our house would step foot in the bathroom during an electrical storm.

So, yes they work but you sure need to be careful where you run the ground line!

Frank B
Jul. 27, 2012, 11:17 AM
...The big, heavy coil types are good, but expensive...
Not really: http://www.kencove.com/fence/_detail_MWLA.php

Lightning rods (techno-speak: "air terminals") on Pine trees were common in the town where I grew up in Southeastern NC. They do work, but the charge still radiates outward from where the ground conductor enters the ground at the base of the tree. It doesn't really make it much safer to seek refuge under said tree.