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Near-death experience... okay, not so much near death, but sheesh! - Karen's Musings
Random Rambling
estherchaya
estherchaya
Near-death experience... okay, not so much near death, but sheesh!
Last night I left work pretty late (around 6pm). I finally gave up on work and left, because the power went out for a minute or so, and I took that as my cue to leave.

The storm outside was not pretty... I was walking through the parking lot and the thunder was so bad car alarms were going off and cars were shaking slightly from it. I heard a loud *CRACK!* and then saw sparks where my hand was holding the umbrella and heard/felt this bzzzt feeling. Then saw the lightning bolt. So I ran to my car, desperately stuffed the umbrella in the back seat and grabbed the door handle to get into the front seat, and another *CRACK!* and again... sparks where my hand was holding onto the car door, same bzzzzt feeling/sound, hair standing on end, and then suddenly the lightning bolt.

I got into the car, panicked, called Seth told him I was about to die and that I love him, and then saw a bolt of lightning come down and hit the pavement of the parking lot right in front of my car. I thought lightning was supposed to strike the highest point? Why did it miss the car then? Anyway ACK! The other thing I want to know is... what is it that shocked me? Is it just that the air during a lightning storm is super-charged with static electricity? Clearly I wasn't struck by the actual bolt of lightning, but something bit me for sure. *shiver* Yes, I know this proves what a moron I am when it comes to science, but well, tough noogies.

Seth had the good sense (note the sarcasm) to tell me as I was driving away that if my car got hit by lightning we'd be out of luck since the insurance company probably wouldn't cover any damage for that "act of God." Ugh. Meanwhile, my biggest worry when I got shocked the first time was that I hadn't told Seth that I love him the last time I talked to him. Hah!

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Current Mood: crazy freaked out!

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Comments
From: gingy Date: July 6th, 2005 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Seth is wrong, the poopyhead. Tell him to stick to pharmacy.


I'M GLAD YOU'RE NOT DEAD AND STUFF.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 6th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
he's wrong that the insurance wouldn't cover it?
From: gingy Date: July 6th, 2005 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep. Lightning is an insured peril. At least, on every policy I ever sold in Canada.
(Deleted comment)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 6th, 2005 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
My fourth grade teacher had told us that the car was the safest place to be if you were outside in a lightning storm (someone had asked her if it was dangerous to be in the car during lightning). I originally told Seth it was my third grade teacher, but it was definitely my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Conlin. I was skeptical then (and still a little skeptical), but it didn't stop me from running like hell to my car since my other option was to be out in the open parking lot.

Anyway, thanks for assuring me that I was in imminent danger (yes the hair on my neck and arms was standing up for a while). I'll be sure to panic next time it happens. :)
From: have_inner_lady Date: July 6th, 2005 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe you should find Mrs. Conlin on superpages and send her a thank-you note.

What a terrifying experience. I'm so relieved that you're okay.

Of course, from here on out, I'll be a lot less impressed when people compare statistics to the chance of getting hit by lightning.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 6th, 2005 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mrs. Conlin is one of the teachers I actually WOULD like to get in touch with. She had a pretty big impact on my life and I remember her classes quite clearly. I was in her class watching Live on TV when the Challenger explosion happened. She had been such a huge advocate of the program to put a teacher in space, that it was clearly devastating to her.

And she read cool books, like The BFG, and Cheaper by the Dozen, and um, other books.

And she had nice handwriting. I always remember teacher's handwriting...isn't that weird?
yermie From: yermie Date: July 6th, 2005 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Cars and lightning

Why did it miss the car then

Lightning strikes the highest charged point, following the electrically easiest path to ground. Your car, not being fully grounded, was not the easiest path, so it didn't go there.

As for how / why you're safe in a car during a lightning strike, it's more to do with the priciples of metals, than with the tires of the car. If lightning is going to travel 1,000's of feet down to hit the car, how is 1/2 inch of rubber going to stop it? From various science classes, it's shown that a charge builds up only on the outside of a conductive surface, but all around (inside and out) on a non-conductive one.

In a regular car (non-convertible), the chassis functions as a solid block of metal. You are inside this piece of metal, and therefore "safe" from the charge (all the electricity is on the outside of the car, rather than inside with you). In a convertible (old style mainly, they may have fixed this in the past 30 years), the plasticy / rubber surface (being nonconductive) will generate a charge all around it, including inside the car with you.

So, yes, you were safe inside the car. Yes, you probably were really close to getting hit by lightning before you got in. Why did you go out in it, once you started feeling the charge build? That's a good sign of "not yet"...

Random lightning trivia - the bolt of lightning is typically about 6 feet in diameter at point of impact (or so I've been told).
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 6th, 2005 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cars and lightning

Why did you go out in it, once you started feeling the charge build?

You mean why was I dumb enough to be walking around in a lightning storm? When I left my building, I hadn't seen any lightning, though I'd heard the thunder from inside my building. The storm seemed to be calming down, though the wind was pretty nasty. It's a huge building and an enormous parking lot, so it was a fairly long trek from my building to my car. I was probably three quarters of the way to my car the first time I got zapped, so it certainly didn't make sense to dash back to my office. The car was closer.
sethcohen From: sethcohen Date: July 7th, 2005 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cars and lightning

Of course, lightning more often goes from the ground to the sky, so she still would have been safer in her car than not.
ichur72 From: ichur72 Date: July 6th, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yikes. Glad you are OK.
magid From: magid Date: July 6th, 2005 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Echoing the 'glad you're not dead' sentiment. Gomel time?
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 6th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dunno... does it really warrant gomel? I mean, I was freaked out, but I never really felt like I was in imminent danger, though my "friend" Steve has kindly pointed out, I actually *was* in imminent danger, I just didn't know it!
magid From: magid Date: July 6th, 2005 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think gomel's one of those things that's got some wiggle room for different situations. Ask your rabbi?
cleobatya From: cleobatya Date: July 6th, 2005 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
those storms are so scary. im glad youre ok.
jeannegrrl From: jeannegrrl Date: July 6th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
The other thing I want to know is... what is it that shocked me? Is it just that the air during a lightning storm is super-charged with static electricity?

Dictating from Hillel, who had a similar experience while working at the Navy and the next day asked electromagnetic experts who worked next door (the Navy doesn't really like it when its ships and trucks get struck by lightening):

Prior a lightening strike, there are several phenomena that occur. Electrical charges build up between the ground and the sky. You can think of them as inverted cones, reaching up from the ground and down from the sky, the most potent of which become a lightening strike. So you were probably caught in one or several of these build ups, which is why you experienced the static electricity between yourself and the metal objects you were holding.

Getting in the car was certainly the right thing to do. Getting rid of the umbrella was also vital. There's no question that you were fortunate and kudos for paying attention to what was going on or you might have been the path of least resistance with the most potential for that bolt.
real_bethy From: real_bethy Date: July 7th, 2005 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I know how scary that is...a few weeks ago I had a similar experience! I'm so glad that you are safe and sound. B"H!!!
debsters1101 From: debsters1101 Date: July 7th, 2005 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
ok so last year when i was cleaning for pesach i was washing the wall in the kitchen and there was a socket onthe wall which i wiped over with my wet cloth which is rather dumb of me and i felt this weird pain and heard this buzz in my brain, weirdest thing ever and THEN even weirder so there was an under the counter light and i reached to turn it on and i got an electric shock from the light bulb and the LIGHT TURNED ON! I TOUCHED THE LIGHT AND IT TURNED ON! LIKE ET!!!! so weird. but definitely not as life threatening as your story.
so glad you are ok!
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