Wall Cloud

Severe Thunderstorm, My Radar App, and a Weather Alert Radio

Wall Cloud

So, late yesterday afternoon we got clobbered with a severe thunderstorm. The kind with frequent lightning, torrential rain, and very strong wind.

I’m writing about it because it taught me a new lesson (something I already knew, but didn’t take action due to normalcy bias).

Here’s the short story…

I’m a bit of a weather nerd and do enjoy observing the extremes that nature can throw at us. It’s exhilarating in a way. It’s also humbling to witness its power.

Okay, so every morning my routine includes checking the weather forecast for the upcoming day and days ahead. I have tons of browser bookmarks just for weather.

That morning I already knew there was a chance for severe weather based on NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center forecast for our region. I checked the local dew-point and it was already 72 (oppressive!) so I knew there was plenty of ‘juice’ in the atmosphere.

As the day went on, temperatures climbed up near 90 while dew-points remained oppressive. All the atmosphere needed was a spark, so to speak, a ripple or disturbance in the atmosphere.

Sure enough, GOES-16 high resolution visible satellite imagery revealed massive meso-scale clouds building to our west. I said to myself, things are going to get interesting real soon…

Checked my Radar app (high-rez raw data feeds from Nexrad) and I could see it beginning to our west. Upon putting it in motion I could see that we were not going to escape.

Next, helped Mrs.J get the clothes off the line.

Next, dropped the umbrellas on the porch so they wouldn’t become kites.

Then went about my business of continuing my day with an eye to the sky.

I began to hear the distant rumbles of thunder.

The weather alert radio in the bedroom began blaring its alert – sure enough a severe thunderstorm warning.

Not long afterwards I could see the approaching wall cloud (shown above). Winds strengthened as surface air was being sucked up into the towering storm. I checked my Radar app again for cloud height (indicative of storm strength) – which topped 50,000 feet. Yikes.

I grabbed my camera and took some pictures just for fun.

While standing inside the sliders to the deck, I began to video the event (just for fun).

The entire event only lasted about 30 minutes. But it was violent to say the least.

As many of you have experienced, there is a difference between “ordinary” thunderstorms and severe thunderstorms. Namely, very strong winds, torrential deluging rain (often with hail), and frequent lightning – the kind that’s right on top of you with near instantaneous crashes of thunder.

Well we got all that (except for the hail).

As I was capturing video, during and just after the core was passing overhead, the lighting and thunder was intense. The power had gone out and on/off again several times as lightning bolts were obviously tripping grid substation circuit breakers.

Suddenly I heard Very Loud “SNAP – SNAP” which sounded like it was actually coming from inside the house and then immediate KABOOM as the air exploded all around. It was as close as lightning can be.

Well, as it turns out, the lightning blew out my internet modem as well as the landline phone. Whoops…

After it passed I checked around for strike damage or the house on fire ;) (didn’t notice anything).

I checked my various electronic devices for damage. Thankfully I have all that stuff plugged into quality surge protectors (I wrote an article about it awhile back).

Evidently it was the phone line that got juiced. I have two DSL lines and a landline to the property which evidently transfered the electromagnetic field of the strike into the lines and into the devices.

Lesson Learned: Unplug all the phone lines when a severe storm is approaching!

Why didn’t I do that? Normalcy bias had me believing that it wouldn’t be ‘that bad’. We get our share of T-storms here, however it’s not all that often when we get a ‘direct strike’ from one that has gone severe. Odds are that one might scoot by a few miles this way or that – but right overhead? This day it was right overhead.

Once the internet went down, I was ‘blind’ with my radar app. I knew there was more behind the one that just hit us, but wasn’t sure if we would be impacted by it.

Having the weather alert radio however was some reassurance that we would be warned. And guess what… sure enough about 30 minutes later it warned of another severe T-storm for our county.

This time I went so far as to unplug all of my electronic devices (including my solar system) and wait it out .

Fortunately though the next one did what often happens – got close enough for lots of lightning and thunder, but not directly overhead!

I had a spare landline phone (problem solved).
I called our internet provider and got another modem shipped.

Today I drove over to the next town which has a Dunkin Donuts (and free WiFi) so I could get this post up.

At least no storms forecast today ;)

 
More: Signs Of A Tornado – 10 Ways To Know If A Tornado Is Coming
More: Lightning Facts & Fiction
More: The Best Weather Alert Radio (updated annually)

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29 Comments

  1. Question. If your outlet has a power surge on it. Red light green light. It trips when there is a surge. Bought and installed from Lowes. Do I need one of these?

  2. Thanks for sending that one our direction, fortunately it fizzled out quite a bit before we got it. Warn0ing was form50 mph winds, cloud to ground lightening, rotor, tree and siding damage, also stated seek shelter in the lowest part of the house. Only got a lot of rumbles and flashes, minimal wind. Nice to see you had no major damage.

  3. Seems as if I’ve talked of my experiences with electronics and thunderstorms. Phone lines are the culprit way more than half the time, especially in heavily wooded areas. Lightning strikes tree, travels down to roots, buried phone lies close to roots energized, energy surge strikes your electronics. I believe I related the story of losing my internet modem last month when it exploded with sparks as I was about to unplug the phone line during a storm.

    Another thing to consider are the emp’s from lightning strikes. Had a strike close to my home (front yard actually) that took out my internet when I was on satellite. The electromagnetic pulse traveled through the router to the surge protector ground, smoking the ground plug and welding the plug connection together. Something to consider in thunderstorms. I now disconnect from the wall.

    1. Dennis, I had a lightning emp (lemp) take out some electronics: Cable modem, router, satellite genie, and a TV. I was on the lower level of the home within 10 feet of these items when the bolt hit right outside the window. There was no popping of surge protectors or flickering of the lights, or any clue to a fluctuation in power. The windows are at about the outside ground level. All electronics above the ground grade died, all below the grade survived even though some shared surge protectors with the dead stuff. Survivors included: computer, printers, phone, surge protectors and monitor. Upstairs the main satellite genie worked after a reset, and the tv attached to does not work on the HDMI that was in use at the time, but the other HDMI inputs still work. The other tv’s, genies, computers etc. on the other side of the home suffered no ill effects. In this case I do not think disconnecting from the wall would have made any difference because the pulse did not flow through the electric, nor the internet, nor satellite, I believe it came through the windows and walls above ground level.

  4. I have to chuckle at times when I hear the old stories of Joe-Blow getting hit by lightning and surviving to tell the story, or the idea that an Electronic Device, such as a “serge protector” can stop a Lightning Strike….
    Sorry all, ain’t going to happen. A typical Lightning Bolt is approx. 1” in diameter of pure Electrons and carries right at 24,000,000 volts of electricity. The Amperage of a typical strike is enough “power” to run NY City for about 3 days. AND that’s a typical Negatively Charged Strike, whereas a Positive Strike can but up to 100 times more ‘Charged’ than the typical ones.
    So basically those “Surge Suppressors” are GREAT for the common Electrical Company surges but in no way will it stop the current of a Strike.

    I would have to say Ken that your ‘Strike’ was nice and close, when you hear the Sizzle things are going to FRY real soon. Been there Done that, I live on a point called “Lightning Point” that’s is at a union of two rivers whereas the Storms travel up/down and merge within a few miles of my place. And yes I have Lightning Rods Dissipaters on the House, Garage, Barn and on the 50’ Radio Mast. Still I have NO expatiations that they will dissipate a Strike from frying all the electronics.

    Back on track, Kens Headline states “My Radar” if you have a Smart Phone, get this APP tis GREAT, can even set it for all the Fires Burning in the US.
    I also have the Weather Radio shown, not very active most of the time here in the Desert, but when it sounds off, I listen for sure.

    PS; I was in the Carpalia at Magdalena Ridge Langmuir Labs when it got hit with a Strike, you want to talk about LOUD!!!!! Stick your head inside a Steel Drum and have some beat on it with a bat…. OMG my ears rang for hours…. And everyone laughed at me…. Ha-Friggen-Ha

    PSS; Ken that Strike hit the ground nearby, hence the surge followed the Phone Lines, look around, you might find the Fulgurite formed, they are really cool, and unusual

    1. OOPS, that should read “Cúpula”
      Have NO idea where that other word came from HAHAHAHA

  5. When I was running research projects in the field, we were usually where we had phone service. A couple of summers we were along a cliff face, in an area where we could not see all around. I bought at carried a hand held lighting detector. This saved out bacon several times, letting us know large lightning storms were moving in on us from behind. Without this the storms would have snuck in on us in mere minutes. Lightning, rain downpour, and heavy wind coming down a 500′ cliff face ( along with loose rock) is not something you want when you are exposed. Lightning detectors are cheap, and can also warn you of lightning that does not have thunder associated with it. Good to have when operating outside, or when you are on a ham radio.(Allows you time to shut down and ground all your antennas.) BTW- moving underground is not necessarily a safe place in lightning storm. Once had a lightning bolt hit the rail and pipe coming in a portal, and it travelled 1000′ into the mine, arcing off everything. Everyone got out okay, but scared the crap out of more than one miner.

    1. I know about not being safe underground. Many years ago I went downstairs to check on our two cats that lived in the basement. There was a thunderstorm raging outside at the time. I was standing on the bare concrete floor, bare footed. All of a sudden there was a very close strike somewhere and my feet and lower legs started tingling. Both cats immediately jumped off of the floor onto the basement stairs. I was so startled that I just stood there for all of 2 seconds when I received a second zap. I sat with the cats on the stairs until the storm passed.

  6. We took a lightning strike about two and a half years ago. The house has a Steady Volt system installed next to the panel for just for this reason. Our problem was it hit the sender unit on the Dish. Than it blew up the internet WiFi router, elephant battery back up and DVD player finishing by leaving out the front of the flat screen. I saw a blue ball go the length of the dinning room and kitchen out the window up a tree. We are covered by a one million dollar insurance policy for damages if it gets in on the power line by Steady Volt. Even the Dish repairman said he had never seen anything like it. The dish company had to replace ever thing just like a new install. The 1/4 inch copper ground wire had two feet of it burned away or blown away. Our homeowners insurance deductible was more than a replacement flat screen cost, Oh bother. We turn the T.V. maybe once a month so a high end unit is a waste of money for us.
    .

  7. Like you Ken, I have about two dozen bookmarks that are weather related. I also have two outdoor thermometers, a wind gauge, rain gauge, and barometer. I even took the Weather Spotter class given by the National Weather Service. I report any severe weather in my area such as tornadoes, flooding, hail, rainfall amounts, snow fall amounts, and about a dozen other conditions. I needed a hobby after my forced early retirement.

  8. The radar coverage is poor in my area. To the west there are many holes in the radar and in my spot the radar station is to far away so measures a few thousand feet higher than optimal.

    Basically we rely on weather spotters to call thing into NOAA. I actually do this as part of my job. Since moving here I have learned to check the weather, if anything is hitting nearby counties then I watch the sky more that day.

    I must admit I am a little bitter to be paying taxes and not getting decent coverage by NOAA…but whatever. Not surprised.

  9. I used to work a linesman for a phone company, I’ve seen direct strikes on houses blow right through surge arrestors. I saw one blow through three to be stopped by the fourth one (high strike area). They can work, but you might need layers, this one had one at the pole out the front, one on the house entry point, and two in the house.

    It occurs to me that preppers are more likely to be struck, basically it’s looking for a good earth point, and if you have a moist garden area that becomes a good earth, again a water tank next to the house, or a large body of water with tree’s around them on a high spot in the land. I reckon there could be something in that, I can’t see how you would fix it, but I think it’s more likely that preppers get struck than someone with no trees, dry soil, and no water bodies around.

  10. It’s been years ago now but my nephew and a couple of friends were out in the boonies one day and a storm came through. Struck them killing one and seriously injuring another.

  11. Anyone know the answer to SCPREPPERs question? Im curious as well.
    Sc prepper 09/04/2018

    Question. If your outlet has a power surge on it. Red light green light. It trips when there is a surge. Bought and installed from Lowes. Do I need one of these?

    1. ME and Sc prepper,

      First, I believe, at least in my mind, is whether the “outlet with the red light green light” is in fact a surge protector or actually a ground fault plug/receptacle. Don’t know that I’ve ever encountered surge protected individual wall outlets. Seen whole home protectors mounted on service entrance, but not individual wall outlets.

      1. Leviton makes outlets with built-in surge suppressor, but a good Tripp-lite isobar offers better protection.

  12. – About 1980 I was standing outside looking toward a large thunderstorm located about 6 miles east of us. At the place I lived at that time, that was directly over a fairly large (about 50,000 population) city.
    I saw a lightning strike hit a power pole and watched as nine electrical transformers blew up one after another. Looked like fourth-of-July fireworks. The city and we were without power for 6 days as crews struggled to find transformers to replace the ones that were fried.
    Very grateful to have a gasoline generator at the time. Thankfully the weather was cool enough we didn’t need air conditioning at the time.
    – Papa S.

  13. – About 1980 I was standing outside looking toward a large thunderstorm located about 6 miles east of us. At the place I lived at that time, that was directly over a fairly large (about 50K) city.
    I saw a lightning strike hit a power pole and watched as nine electrical transformers blew up one after another. Looked like fourth-of-July fireworks. The city and we were without power for 6 days as crews struggled to find transformers to replace the ones that were fried.
    Very grateful to have a gasoline generator at the time. Thankfully the weather was cool enough we didn’t need air conditioning at the time.
    – Papa S.

    1. – Sorry for the double post. We were in the midst of a thunderstorm at the time I posted.
      – Papa S.

  14. Oh my! We stopped 5 minutes before an amazingly powerful storm came through Lisbon ME. We could see it coming and my spouse now listens to me when I say get in cellar or pull into THAT restaurant

    High winds, thunder, lightening, sideways driving rain. Thankfully no hail. It was 90 degrees prior to storm. It has cooled nicely now. Also had an amazing lemon cake while waiting! Don’t take chances with Mother Nature. Get to shelter and unplug

  15. Around the early to mid eighties, my wife and I and another couple who were our best friends and their little daughter who was around 6 or 7, was driving down the interstate in central Arkansas close to Little Rock, in a thunderstorm and as we came to our exit, BOOM and I mean loud, ear ringing loud . The car died and I coasted to a stop just before entering the state highway, car wouldn’t restart, wouldn’t make a sound, this was before cell phones, so I hiked to the nearest house to borrow their phone to call some more friends to come get us and a tow truck for the car. To make a long story short, anything in the car that was electrical was fried, computer, battery, radio, even burned wires into on the fuel pump, and guess where the fuel pump was ? Inside the gas tank, now explain how that sucker didn’t blow us all up ? The only visible damage on the exterior of the car was the little ball at the top of the radio antenna was half melted

    1. David,

      “even burned wires into on the fuel pump, and guess where the fuel pump was ? Inside the gas tank, now explain how that sucker didn’t blow us all up ?”

      That’s an easy one. The electric fuel pumps remain submerged in gasoline. Gasoline absent oxygen is not flammable, gasoline vapor is, . The sparks/heating took place in liquid gasoline, not the flammable vapor area of the tank. (Tip- most in tank electric fuel pump failures are caused by overheating. They are kept cool by the surrounding gasoline. Keeping your tank above 1/2 full prolongs their life. Routinely just keeping enough to keep from running empty results in unnecessary stress on the fuel pump.)

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