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Topic: Close call with Lightning, Felt the Shock Wave< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 12:01 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Close call with Lightning
Felt the Shock Wave

I was out on the Thunder Basin National Grassland last night. I was pretty much finished with what I was doing as I watched a dark towering thunderstorm developing. With few trees in the area, I wanted to protect my pickup from hail damage, so I headed home, hoping to beat the downpour. There were severe thunderstorm warmings for the area.

As I neared my house, there were successive bolts of lightning in the foothills nearby. Time between flash and thunder was close. A few sprinkles of rain fell. I pulled up in front of my garage door and got out. When I went to close the pickup door, I was jolted by a shock. It was kind of like what a person might get from walking across a carpet. But it was a little stronger. I had never before experienced that when getting out of a vehicle.

My first thought was, "Is my hair standing up?" But it wasn't, and that was no place to deliberate the question. So I hustled into a side door and opened the garage door. I stood just a few inches from the garage door so that I could quickly duck under and get into my pickup. As the bottom of the garage door neared eye level, there was a terrific explosion just outside. My eyes were barely shielded from the flash of lightning, but I heard the crack of thunder almost instantly.

At virtually the same time, a burst of wind pushed me backwards and off balance. And then it was gone. "Whoa," I thought. "Lightning never strikes twice in the same spot, right?" But I wasn't so sure this bolt had finished its business. So I waited a few seconds, then hustled back to my pickup, drove it into the garage, and shut the garage door.

I knew at the time that I had experienced the lightning's shock wave. This morning I did a little search on the Internet and found the following from the National Lightning Safety Institute:
    "The shock wave extends outward for the first 30 feet (10 m), after which it becomes an ordinary sound wave called thunder. The speed of sound through air at sea level is 758 mph (1,130 feet/second; 344 m/second) at 68° F (20° C). Thunder is exploding air occurring along the entire length of the lightning channel."
Let's just say, that in my yard are some old, rusted metal objects embedded in the ground somewhere around 30 feet from the garage door. I'm guessing the lightning connected with one of those. But I can't help but wonder this morning how things could have been different if the timing were a few seconds off.

I've been near lightning numerous times. It always gives me a thrill. But this is the first time I've felt such a perceptible shock wave. I know many of you have similar experiences. But have you actually felt the shock wave? And near enough to push you off balance?


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 12:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Wow, glad you're safe.  No, never felt anything like that myself.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 1:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Jul. 20 2013, 10:01 am)
QUOTE
Close call with Lightning
Felt the Shock Wave

The shock wave extends outward for the first 30 feet

Thanks for sharing your experience.  While I have been close to lightning strikes, I've never been that close, and I have not desire to get any closer.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 1:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yikes!  I hope you're never that close again.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 2:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yowza!  That sure would've gotten my attention.

From the same article:

Lightning has a diameter of 1-2 inches (2-5 cm) and can heat air to 70,000° F (39,000° C) in a few milliseconds.
A sudden increase in pressure and temperature causes surrounding air to expand violently at a rate faster than the speed of sound, similar to a sonic boom.
Thunder contains a somewhat cylindrical initial pressure shock wave along the lightning channel in excess of 10 times the normal atmospheric pressure. This shock wave decays rapidly into a sound wave within feet or meters.

It sounds like you may have been inside that initial shock wave.  A 10 atmospheres shock wave means a 140+PSI overpressure!  A 45PSI overpressure will rupture 90% of people's eardrums, so you were apparently far enough away for the overpressure to dissipate to below that value before it hit you.

Scary stuff.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 2:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

When I was 14 years old, I had a bolt travel through our living room into the kitchen, hit the microwave which was about 30 feet away, and charred the crap out of it. I was about four feet away from the bolt. It passed right in front of my face. My ears were ringing and hurt from the sound for several hours. The hair on my arms was standing up and it about scared the badiddle out of me...not something I'll soon forget.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 4:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I was captivated by your story. You have lived to tell the tale, so to speak. That would make me even more respectful of the tremendous power lightning has, and what it is capable of doing.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 4:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yikes!  Be careful out there.  

Lightning scares me spitless.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 9:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Had it happen to me in the BWCA back in the early '80s. We were standing around outside during a thunderstorm when it happened. I remember seeing the flash of light and then all six of us woke up on the ground. You could clearly see where it struck the ground. My father looked at me and said "don't tell your mother." :)

It was a scary moment to say the least. I'm hoping that was my once in a lifetime almost struck by lightning moment. And may it be yours as well.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 10:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

My father looked at me and said "don't tell your mother."

OK, that made me laugh out loud.

Nearly died from lightning on a golf course in Kentucky.  It ain't anything but scary.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 20 2013, 11:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Once at camp bob Marshall in Custer state park around a big campfire ring. My husbands family reunion for his parents 60th anniversary. We all felt it in the air just over the fire ring but it knocked my drunk and already off balance brother in law into the fire and severely burned one hand to the elbow when his arm went in between two logs already red hot. Scary stuff.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 11:54 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(AnyaDogs @ Jul. 20 2013, 7:52 pm)
QUOTE
Had it happen to me in the BWCA back in the early '80s. We were standing around outside during a thunderstorm when it happened. I remember seeing the flash of light and then all six of us woke up on the ground. You could clearly see where it struck the ground. My father looked at me and said "don't tell your mother." :)

It was a scary moment to say the least. I'm hoping that was my once in a lifetime almost struck by lightning moment. And may it be yours as well.

There's some interesting accounts here, especially about your father saying, "don't tell your mother."

I can't recall which site right now, but when I was reading about the shock (or pressure) wave, that's the cause of many of the injuries and much of damage caused by lightning. Of course, there's the ground current and other factors also, in addition to the direct strike.

My incident happened so fast that I didn't have much time to get spooked by it all. I've had some prolonged experiences in the backcountry, squatting in a small grove of trees, that had me on edge much longer but didn't involve strikes quite so close.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 12:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Two close calls that I can remember. Once while camped on a lightly forested ridge during the monsoon storms a bolt struck a free 65 feet from my tent. I was also in a strike zone in the Gila. That was the first and only time I heard the rumored buzzing of tent poles due to being electrically charged. Lightning didn't strike. Wasn't much I could do other wait it out.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 1:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I always wondered if it was lightning caused. Once I was driving outside Moorcroft and passed three fields of cows, the two edge fields the cows were fine, but the center field, every cow was dead, laying in the same direction on their side with their back to the West and their heads to the south and with the bodies heat bloated so the four legs all stuck straight out to the east.

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(Echo @ Jul. 21 2013, 11:12 am)
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I always wondered if it was lightning caused. Once I was driving outside Moorcroft and passed three fields of cows, the two edge fields the cows were fine, but the center field, every cow was dead, laying in the same direction on their side with their back to the West and their heads to the south and with the bodies heat bloated so the four legs all stuck straight out to the east.

A herd of cows will often line up similar to that during extreme cold or heat. In winter time, with a prevailing wind from the northwest, cows will turn their tails to the wind and slowly move away until they are tightly packed into the southeast corner of the pasture against the fence lines. They can't move any further away from the cold wind, so they remain in that corner of the pasture.

In extreme heat, cows will also line up in the same direction, this time with their tails toward the sun. Since the hottest part of the day is in the afternoon with the sun somewhere above the western horizon, the cows will move toward the eastern fence line and pack tightly there until the temperature cools.

Usually during a thunderstorm, I see cows bedded down and spread further apart. But with thunderstorms following hot days, I suppose a herd of cows could get caught tight against a fence line if the storm arrives quickly.

I could not say for sure about the situation you saw. Depending upon how big the herd was, I would not think lightning would kill them all. It almost sounds like heat stress. But that does not explain the two other herds still surviving. And I'm puzzled as to why their tails would be to the north. Do you recall if the cows were packed against a fence line?

I grew up herding both cattle and sheep and was never impressed with their intelligence.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 2:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Jul. 21 2013, 10:50 am)
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I could not say for sure about the situation you saw. Depending upon how big the herd was, I would not think lightning would kill them all. It almost sounds like heat stress. But that does not explain the two other herds still surviving. And I'm puzzled as to why their tails would be to the north. Do you recall if the cows were packed against a fence line?

I grew up herding both cattle and sheep and was never impressed with their intelligence.

No they were not a large herd or packed together, maybe 10 cows scattered on a couple acres in a field near the highway 16 where there are a lot of old log and wood buildings on the other side of the highway near the train tracks somewhere around Moorcroft or Upton

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 4:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Pretty easy explanation for those cows.  All Compass cows do that just before they die.  Tails stick out due North, not magnetic.  Odd breed, though.  Not many of them left in the world.  

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 5:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Ah compass cows. Why didn't I think of that? I was looking for a logical explanation like Alien ship landed in that field.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 5:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, next time I get lost without a compass in a huge cow pasture, some cow will be in grave danger.

Actually, I don't know, Echo. Sounds like an area just west of Upton, Wyoming. But it's a mystery otherwise.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 6:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Glad you are okay, Travis. And now you have a cool story to tell. The only shock wave (percussion) I've ever felt was from a dynamite blast. I thought it was great fun, but of course it was under controlled circumstances. If I had experienced what you did, I would have been scared poopless.

Back in 1999, a herd of elk was killed by an apparent lightning strike here in Colorado. Here's a  link to the article:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-67419680.html


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 7:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Was in a small house that was hit by lighting, pretty scary.  There were balls of blue flame running on the inside walls wherever there was wiring or plumbing.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 8:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I went out yesterday to do something pretty close to meaningless while it was lightening and thundering nearby and there was a big crack and flash very near me. No burst of wind or smell, but IT WAS CLOSE. What an idiot. But I am smart enough to take it as a sign, a reminder to not do risky things for no good reason.

(I didn't tell my wife either.)


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 8:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The wife and I witnessed a strike at about 50' once.  We were standing in the doorway of a travel trailer watching the rain and it hit a tree on the perimeter of our campsite.

Can't say it was the concussion that knocked us both back against the opposite wall so much as just reflexive backpedaling from sheer terror.


Whew, never want to be that close again.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 21 2013, 9:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

That is a crazy story - one of those that is really great as long as you walk away from it, otherwise not so much.

A friend of mine and his father were struck several years ago. The father was directly struck and I believe my friend was hit with the shock wave and it sent him flying. Luckily, both survived.

I took this last night Phoenix - it was great, lots of lightning and no rain. I was up on a small, hillish mountain but never sensed I was in any danger. Although, it made me wish I wouldn't have bought an aluminum tripod!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 22 2013, 6:48 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The closest I've come was while in a vehicle. I was waiting at a traffic light when lightning hit the street signs/post about 20' away and the top of the post disappeared. Scared me spitless when it hit. I got home and when I walked around the passenger side of my truck, I realized I had tiny drops of metal splattered all down that side.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 22 2013, 9:27 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Geez... glad you're OK. You should sell that story to a garage door opener manufacturer. :D

The closest I've come happened about 20 years ago. I was renting a room in a house, and a T-storm was overhead. It had just begun to rain, when I noticed one of my roommate's items was outside. So I ran out and put it in the storage shed, and entered the kitchen door. The lady who owned the house had a look of panic and asked if I was OK. I was confused, but I said "yes", and asked why she was so concerned. She asked if I got hit by the lightning. I had no idea what she was talking about. She said her hair stood on end and then she saw the light and instant thunderclap. Again, I told her I had no idea what she was talking about. But something strange happened the remainder of that night. Just before every other nearby cloud-to-ground strike, my left tricep would twitch. To this day, we still aren't sure if I was hit. I think that if I was hit, I might not remember the strike, but would remember getting up off the ground and would have mud/grass on my pants or shirt or burn marks, etc. I don't see how I could have been hit and remained upright. On the other hand, if lightning struck right near the house, why wouldn't I have seen the flash or heard the thunder?


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(Chuck D @ Jul. 21 2013, 7:24 pm)
QUOTE
Was in a small house that was hit by lighting, pretty scary.  There were balls of blue flame running on the inside walls wherever there was wiring or plumbing.

Cool....  :cool:

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 22 2013, 9:49 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've had a few close calls with lightning.

The first time when I was a kid at a scout camp in the mountains of SoCal.  I was at the lake working on my canoieng merit badge (in al aluminum canoe) when a sudden storm came up.  I made it to shore, tied up the canoe and was waking to the nearby boat house.  I was 10 feet or so away when lightning struck the canoe or realy close to it.  I scared the bejeebers out of me.

Anothe time was over the Indian Ocean.  Lightning struck the forward radome.  It momentarily blinded all three in the cockpit and destroyed the radome.  We immediately aborted the flight.   There was a lot of noise and buffeting during the RTB, but we made it to Diego Carcia without further incident.

The wierdest and scariest thing for me was St Elmo's fire.  Altough it's not technically lightning (I think), it's an electrical phenomenon and related.  Watching St Elmo's fire dance on the windscreen, on the windscreen posts and wipers is unnerving.  One time it formed a big ball, ented the aircraft, bounced aft, and dissipated when it hit the aft pressure bulk head.  THAT was scary.  There was no damage.  We discussed aborting the mission, but decided to fly at a higher altitude instead and that seemd to solve the problem.  But it was still a nerve wracking flight for the next several hours.  I would not want to repeat that.  

The airplane was an old P-3, which is based on the even older L-188 airliner.  The flight controls are all mechanical and the instruments either mechanical or analog.  I wonder what would've happened to a modern fly-by-wire airplane with an all glass digital cockpit?
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(WalksWithBlackflies @ Jul. 22 2013, 7:27 am)
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Geez... glad you're OK. You should sell that story to a garage door opener manufacturer. :D . . .

Heh, heh. Yeah, a dramatized re-enactment would be fun to conjure up. I spend so much time on the computer that I favor low-tech solutions elsewhere. Just can't bring myself to purchase an automatic garage door opener.

Thanks for the stories, everyone. Fascinating and spooky at the same time.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 22 2013, 2:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

If this interests you I read a good book, actually recommended a few years back in the book forum here, about a woman sheepherder who was struck by lightning. "A Match To the Heart" by Gretel Ehrlich

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If Light is in your heart, you will find your way Home. (Rumi)

The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.  Chinese proverb

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