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Folk belief about preventing lightning damage

  1. May 8, 2015 #1

    micromass

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    In my region, there is some kind of folk belief about lightning. I personally think it is nonsense, but I'm asking to make sure it sure is nonsense. After all, I can't pretend to know much about electricity.

    Anyway, it is said that when there is a thunder storm near your house, then it is best to unplug all the appliances, but leaving at least one plugged in. The idea would somehow be that when the lightning strikes, then by leaving one appliance plugged in, the lightning "will have somewhere to go" so it won't cause damage outside this one appliance.

    So, am I right in thinking that this is nonsense?
     
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  3. May 8, 2015 #2

    berkeman

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    Sounds like the rumor was started by an appliance manufacturer... :smile:
     
  4. May 8, 2015 #3

    jedishrfu

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    I think this is a folk belief. I never heard of it in the US and my mother was always keen to tell us these things like don't shower or take a bath or use the phone during a storm. Also don't watch tv or use a radio as it would "attract the lightning" which I found hard to believe.

    However, I do remember a story where a teenager mowing the lawn was saved from a lightning strike by his ipod. The current went thru the wires sparing his body. He wound up with burns on his skin where the wires touched and his sneakers were blown off and he didn't remember how he got into the house afterwards.

    So it makes sense from that standpoint to leave one thing still plugged in but since you have lamps and appliances plugged in that should cover that contingency.
     
  5. May 8, 2015 #4

    Baluncore

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    But what if that appliance is not turned on?
     
  6. May 8, 2015 #5

    jedishrfu

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  7. May 8, 2015 #6

    micromass

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    Right, those beliefs exist here too. What about them? Is there any truth to those?
     
  8. May 8, 2015 #7

    micromass

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  9. May 8, 2015 #8

    berkeman

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    The only thing that would be true, would be if you had a very robust product plugged into an outlet, and it was turned on. Then its surge protection circuit would provide clamping for differential and common-mode surges (as tested by EN 61000-4-5), which would protect other devices plugged into the powerline nearby. But just any old appliance will not likely have such robust protection inside...
     
  10. May 8, 2015 #9

    jedishrfu

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    Yes see my previous post. It has to do with lightning travelling the shortest path to ground.

    NOVA had an episode on lightning some years ago. Some folks were putting golf balls off a cliff. They were on a platform in a circle and the current shooter got hit just as he raised his golf club. He and all the surrounding golfers were knocked out flat because the lightning strike spread out seeking out the golf club metal.

     
  11. May 8, 2015 #10

    jedishrfu

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    Its pretty reliable and consistent with what I saw on the NOVA show (not the one I just posted).

    One good piece of advice is if you hear the thunder go seek shelter as lightning strikes can travel 10 miles to ground out. There was another story of a cyclist who stopped for a moment by the roadside and was struck by a bolt of lightning from a storm on the other side of the mountain roughly 10 miles away. He survived ut died several months later due to complications from the strike.

    Here's the teenager story from Ars Technica:

    http://arstechnica.com/apple/2006/07/4551/

    and here's some more on lightning from a NOVA FAQ:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/dwyer-lightning.html
     
  12. May 8, 2015 #11

    SteamKing

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    I don't know about you, but I don't want any lightning going thru my house, via a plugged in appliance or what.

    I read a story one time in the local newspaper about a family who wrapped a string of Christmas lights around an oak tree located next to their house. The lights were plugged into a household socket inside. Just before Christmas that year, a thunderstorm produced a bolt of lightning, which struck the top of the oak tree in this family's yard. The electricity from the lightning shot down the trunk of the tree until it reached the Christmas lights, then traveled along the light cord back into the home, into the socket, and finally reached ground from there, but not before blowing chunks out of the interior of the home where it traveled. Fortunately, no fire was started, but the home did need some repairs. I believe this family no longer puts lights around their trees.
     
  13. May 8, 2015 #12

    jedishrfu

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    A similar but more indirect story was a family who lost power during an electrical storm that happened around dinner time. They decided to go out to dinner at a local restaurant since they had no power for cooking and when they returned found their house on fire.

    They forgot to turn off the stove before they left.
     
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