Lightning Damage

There are times when during thunderstorms a number of lightning flashes will occur. Sometimes those flashes turn out to be cloud to ground strikes. When that happens, it is possible for electrical transformers and wiring to be damaged. It is also possible for tall objects such as buildings, antennas and poles to be hit. It is not unheard of for lightning to damage telephones, computers, televisions and just about anything electrical. However, when damage occurs and a claim is submitted to an insurance company, the insurer will want to know, if in fact, lightning caused the damage. In order to determine if lightning was to blame, it just makes sense to see if lightning was in the area when the damage occurred. There is a lightning detection network from which data can be obtained for specific dates and time periods. Typically, a radius of five miles from the location in question is searched. The reports that are generated usually indicate the time and location in terms of coordinates, intensity in terms of amps and the distance from the target location. If a report returns no recorded strikes, then, the conclusion is obvious – the damage wasn’t caused by lightning. However, conclusion becomes more complicated when a lone strike occurs say, three miles away from the target location. The question then becomes “if lightning caused the damage, then what path did it take?” In this scenario, there are only two ways for lightning to travel: through the power grid and the ground. Contacting the local electric company will usually reveal whether lightning was a problem and whether it affected the area where the target is located. On the other hand, if lightning hits the ground, the geological makeup will offer resistance to the flow of current. The amount of resistance is dependant on whether the minerals in the ground are conductors of electricity or insulators. The further away a strike occurs from the  target,  the less the likelihood that the strike actually caused the damage claimed.

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About rjhillconsulting
R.J. Hill Consulting is a forensic consulting engineering firm that specializes in performing failure investigations for attorneys and insurance companies. Mr. R.J. Hill is a registered professional (mechanical) engineer with over 37 years of experience, 33 years in private practice. Please visit www.rjhill.com to see the kinds of forensic investigations that Mr. Hill performs.

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