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Too Close For Comfort...Lightening.

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  • Too Close For Comfort...Lightening.

    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!

  • #2
    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.


    • #3
      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.


      • #4
        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.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home


        • #5
          That was very close, very scary.

          Glad you are ok.


          • #6
            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.


            • #7
              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!


              • #8
                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.
                "We're still right, they're still wrong" James Carville


                • #9
                  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.


                  • #10
                    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.
                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                    • Original Poster

                      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.


                      • #12
                        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...
                        Last edited by Belg; Jul. 23, 2012, 09:20 AM.
                        Nudging "Almost Heaven" a little closer still...


                        • #13
                          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.
                          The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
                          Winston Churchill


                          • #14
                            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.
                            Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                            • #15
                              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...


                              • #16
                                Ditto the solar fence charger.


                                • Original Poster

                                  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.


                                  • #18
                                    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.


                                    • #19
                                      we unplug ours during the really violent storms now...
                                      Nudging "Almost Heaven" a little closer still...


                                      • #20
                                        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!