I was working in my home office around 6PM on June 1st.  A big rainstorm had just rolled through, the rain had just about stopped and the sun was starting to peak out.  Suddenly there was a brilliant flash and a huge boom.  Things went downhill from there.

I ran down to my home theater to check on my kids who were watching a movie.  They were okay, but there was a burning smell coming from the projector.  Both sound and picture had vanished, so I just shut everything off.  I decided to test my whole house video distribution system downstairs.  It appeared to be working ok with picture and audio getting to the TV’s connected to it.  However I did notice a slight burning smell but I thought it was from the projector in the theater.  I went back upstairs to test the home theater and when I came back down about 5 minutes later, there was smoke pouring out from my equipment rack.  I pulled it out to unplug everything and discovered the smoke was coming from my security panel on the wall.  I quickly unplugged it from power.

I then went outside to have a look and see where lightning might have hit and easily found the source.  A huge oak tree in my neighbor’s yard had a big section missing from it.  There were splinters the size of a baseball bat all over the place, some of them over 100’ away from the tree!  I went over and checked on my neighbors, but they had only lost one security camera and had no burning smell of any type in their home.  I immediately reported the strike to my insurance company and took some pictures of the oak tree.

I then, over the weekend, began the tedious process of testing all of the electronics in my house.  The phones were all dead, but I did still have cable TV service and the Internet still worked.  On my first pass I discovered my projector, theater surround sound processor, phones, security, and one wireless access point were totally dead.  I also had some electrical power equipment that was plugged in outside die, along with one GFI outlet.

The really interesting part is all that happened next.  I have to preface this and tell you I had everything surge protected to the max.  I think surge protectors are a bit like a seat belt.  They can save you in a lot of instances but if you get hit head on by a Mac truck, they cannot fully protect you.

On Sunday, two days later, my main router died and along with it the Internet.  One week later, my matrix audio/video switcher died.  The phone company came out in a few days to fix the phone lines and told me the strike had come in on my phone line but had totally vaporized it, so they ran a new line.  They also said my internal phone lines were not testing perfectly.  The new phones worked fine for a couple of weeks, then I lost dial tone and I had to have a new internal phone line run.  This was about one month after the strike

I thought after this, everything was probably done breaking so I filled my insurance claim.  Well, on July 14th, six weeks after the hit, my cable modem died.  During the next week, one of my hard drives I back up my music on died.  On July 27th, pushing two months since the strike, the Ethernet jack on my Apple Mac Mini died! As I write this on July 29th, I have no idea if things are done breaking or not.

The moral of my personal lightning strike story is, you can never be sure the extent of the damage.  I suggest you let your insurance company know as soon as possible if you get hit and ask them to hold the claim open for as long as possible.  Lightning works in very strange ways, and sometimes you do not even know you have taken a hit until things just start mysteriously dying.  In my case it was obvious, and we were very lucky the damage was mostly to just electronics, unlike the less fortunate people whose houses burn down after a hit.

The other piece to consider is, lightning strikes make it extremely hard to troubleshoot systems failures.  Just like I experienced, things may work fine when we test them, but fail a short time later.  Unless you replace every piece of electronics (which we sometimes recommend when the strike is particularly violent and a direct hit on the home) there is just no way to know what might fail next.

It is a huge pain in the rear to live through as things die off one at a time over up to 2 months plus as I have experienced.  I hope none of you ever have to deal with this, but with the number of storms that pass through our area, I’m sure some of you will. Perhaps this will help all of you understand better how to deal with it and know that it is very hard to completely troubleshoot a home that took a surge hit from mother nature.