Florida has many seasons in which thunderstorms are very prevalent, chief among them are the summer months. As the daytime sun recedes to the west, hot air rises over the land mass creating a vacuum of air causing sea-breezes to move in from the shore. As most of Florida’s area is adjacent to its shoreline, this heavy vapored air then collides with the warmer air causing thunderstorms. These weather events can include heavy winds, excessive rain, hail, and usually lightning strikes.
Florida, as a state, has the second most amount of lightning strikes in the nation with 14.6 million lightning events recorded in 2021 alone. Lightning can do substantial damage to any structure, but a strike of any magnitude, can cause catastrophic damage to a house. While one would probably never expect this type of disaster to befall them, one can still be prepared if their house gets struck by lightning.
HOW DOES LIGHTNING WORK?
Lightning is an electrical discharge of static electricity. As air currents and moisture move around in a cloud during a storm, the cloud’s particles become charged. Negatively charged air interacts with positively charged air from the ground and when they connect, a spark ignites. This discharge of electricity, lightning, is an actual buildup of energy, creating heat in excessive of 20,000 degrees.
Lightning usually travels directly between clouds and the ground without a conduit of any kind. Lightning will form wherever it can make a connection between the two. When lightning is present, anything that can conduct electricity makes it easier for the charge to travel to the ground. In a structure like a wooden framed house, pipes, both water and gas, phone, TV cable, internet lines, gutters, downspouts, metal window frames, weather vanes, etc. are good conduits. As the lightning travels over these various instruments, it can also branch out, electrifying many parts of a home at the same time in its journey towards the earth. Anything connected to the conduits can become electrified and damaged or destroyed including sinks, radiators, heating elements, heat pumps, air conditioners, lamps, and even electronic equipment like stereos and TV’s.
Many times, lightning traveling to the ground will jump or arc through the air from one conductive path to another. This is an occurrence called “side flashing.” A lightning strike may first hit a metal gutter and then jump to a window frame or a better-grounded metal water pipe.
WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES A HOUSE, WHAT CAN HAPPEN?
Homes that get struck by lightning can sustain serious damage including fire, damage to any type of wiring or piping even the shock wave of a direct hit can cause structural degradation, cracking in concrete, brick, cinderblock, stone, outside stucco and chimneys. These shock waves can also fracture objects and create flying debris that can be propelled at dangerous speeds around structures. The most common damage besides electronic surges, is when lightning ignites flammable material in and outside of the building. These materials can ignite when the current passes through them and heats them to the point of ignition which can burn down the entire structure. If any gas piping is present, lightning strikes may damage valves, regulators, appliance connectors, and can cause or ignite a leakage of flammable gas.
Many homes in Florida are built to withstand lightning strikes. Properly positioned lightning rods on roofs conduct the electricity to the ground usually by-passing the structure, and its materials used within.
IF LIGHTNING STRIKES YOUR HOME, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
If your house or property is hit by lightning, first make sure everyone in it is okay. If you smell smoke, evacuate your home immediately and call 911. Do this regardless of whether or not you detect a fire breakout.
During an electrical storm stay away from any wiring or exposed pipes, taking of a bath or shower, using running water in sinks, and depending on the storm’s severity and proximity, unplug all electronic devices like computers, video games, and televisions until the storm passes. Since a direct lightning strike can travel through soil and across moist concrete, wear rubber soled shoes if walking in a basement, garage, or patio area.
IF LIGHTNING DAMAGES YOUR ROOF, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
If lightning strikes your home directly, it may damage roofing materials, exposed vents or chimneys and even damage the sub-structure attached to your attic. You should call a professionally licensed roofing contractor like Sunrise Roofing Company to perform a complete roof inspection. Our professional roofers will examine any chimneys, roof shingles, tile, metal roofs, siding, gutters, and walls for damage.
Sunrise Roofing will then give you a written estimate to repair or replace any damaged shingles, metal joints or tile issues that might have occurred. Sunrise Roofing will even provide emergency roofing repairs after a big storm. The sooner you act, the better. You will want to have the inspection done as soon as possible in case any damaged has caused issues that might lead to water leaks or any structural repair needs. We are a licensed general contractor as well as a roofing contractor so don’t delay. Give us a call for a free roof inspection at 904-323-1929.