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Near lightning strike

Mark_WS7M
Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
edited June 2020 in FLEX-6000 Signature Series
Last night a Severe Thunderstorm developed very quickly and moved very fast over our house.

Since my ham gear is in an outside shop I have an antenna grounding system that I used and employed when the storm began to heat up.

This storm however was showing a very large number of strikes so I decided to risk going outside to physically pull cables from all radio gear.  Unfortunately I never made it.  As I was heading to the shed a strike occurred so close that I felt the static and the flash/boom was instantaneous.

Figuring the equipment can be replaced I went back inside, very quickly.  I had shutdown virtually all of the gear and was hoping the grounding was enough.

It began to hail and I was standing near a sliding glass window inside to watch when there was an bright orange glow outside followed almost immediately by a simultaneous flash/boom.  VERY LOUD.  

The sliding glass door I was near actually sparked door to frame.

I figured that was it.  That had to be a direct strike to my loop antenna.  But all antennas are still up and still work!

I smelled electronic burning and right near where I was standing the WiFi access point was dead and smelled terrible.  The TV that we had been watching was no saying no input.  My apple TV was blinking like mad.  I figured the Comcast cable box was fried as well.

When the lightening past I began to investigate.  12V power was off at my desk location.  The Astron 35M powersupply would not power up.   This morning I checked the fuse and it was blown but it blows new fuses instantly and makes a terrible noise when you attempt to power it on.  So that is gone.

Outside where the radio was 12V power was also off.  A GFCI blew and the two 12V supplies out there are actually ok.  The raspberry Pi station controller looks to be dead and won't power up.

The saddest is my SPE 2K-FA amp is fried.  It will not power up and makes horrible noises.

Surprisingly the Flex6600 with the grounded antennas made it just fine.  It is up and running now.  

Based on the many things that died:

Samsung TV
WiFi access point
Numerous 12V LAN switches
SPE 2K-FA
Palstar HF-Auto
Audio mixer
Astron power supply

This strike looks to have gotten into our house power.  Luckily our house is divided into the old and the new.  The strike appears to have effected the new power system and blown stuff mostly on that set of circuits.

All this happened with a very good station ground to a 10 foot copper pole driven into the ground.

But the key point here is the Flex 6600 survived just fine.

I've been working **** a lightening disconnect system and just have not had time to finish it.  I now wish I had.  But this incident will surely light the fires to get that finished and working.

Mark - WS7M

Comments

  • Ian1
    Ian1 Member
    edited June 2020
    Mark

    Sorry for your loss in FL I deal with it all the time. When you take a direct strike you realize your lucky if anything survives. Like you were going to do I disconnect physically everything.

    Remember your homeowners might cover some of the costs.

    Ian
  • WK2Y
    WK2Y Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Wow!!  I'm glad you weren't hurt.   I never had to collect, but down the road you might consider  ARRL insurance.   I'm pretty sure lightning strikes are covered.  That and UPSs.  Hope it's not too much hassle getting things back to normal.  

    Bob
  • Bob Needleman
    Bob Needleman Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Mark - very sorry to hear of you loss related to the lightning strike, but glad you and your family weren't hurt or had property damage. I learned long ago that grounding, in whatever way you do it, including multiple ground rods, 'blitz bugs', Alpha-Delta arrestors, etc.  are not going to protect electronics against a direct, or near- direct lightning strike. Especially if it gets in the AC mains. I only have 1 HF antenna and I always pull the main coax connector out and pull the AC cord from the amp and power **** supplying the Flex and other gear when I leave the shack. If I forget, and I hear thunder or hear a storm is coming on weather forcast I go to my basement shack and quickly disconnect the coax and AC mains connection. Full disconnect is really only 100% way to avoid lightning damage to electronics. The ham gear insurance suggestion made by others is a good idea, especially since it sounds like you have some expensive gear there, including Flex and SPE Expert amp. Glad your Flex wasn't damaged, and hope you can get all the other items repaired or replaced quickly. 

    Bob, K3AC
  • Lionel
    Lionel Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    As far as a disconnect system, I have gone over this and concluded that I could never get sufficient gap, or ground, and in any event the very power leads needed to operate would be a vulnerability to a near strike.  I considered local sacrificial battery/solar power for the system, pneumatic cylinder-plastic tubing from shack(I've seen one like this - I wonder if its been challenged), mechanical from the shack(long stick!), automatic-spring loaded and tripped on first detection, the risk your life method, etc.

    I'd love to see what you are working on and suspect your plan is better and more realistic than any of my crazy, klondike ideas.

    I'm glad your Flex survived, maybe a credit to its design. Sometimes I feel like putting mine in a copper box, on the other side of the house. 

    Scary.
  • Bob Needleman
    Bob Needleman Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    There's only 1 foolproof way to disconnect - and that's to DISCONNECT - period. If your coax and AC connection are completely pulled, any lightning or static electricity that may come into the shack is not going to jump over to your coax input to the rig/amp,  and AC power ****. 

    Bob K3AC
  • Clay N9IO
    Clay N9IO Clay N9IO Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Yah really glad you weren't hurt Mark. The 2KFA too? Ouch! Here in Illinois I have a great grounding system BUT at the shack I have the grounding bar set up with a large disconnect, only the feedlines to that point are grounded back to the tower ground but I disconnect the radios at that bar when not on the air. Your storm came on so fast even this probably couldn't have even protected you. Again really glad you weren't hurt, equipment can be replaced not a talented programmer such as yourself. I took a major hit exactly like your Mark the year I moved here in 92,. The original existing TV tower was poorly installed, no ground system. TV's , two computers on dial-up internet were fried. Yes dial-up, ha. The MOVs in the surge suppressors didn't see what hit them, just black yuck. The phone entrance was blown off the side of the house all over the yard in little charred pieces. Thankfully All of my ham gear was still boxed up. I replaced the tower the following spring 93 and went back on the air. That tower was replaced in 2005 with my current system. Good luck sir, the recovery process is a pain. 73' Clay N9IO
  • KY6LA_Howard
    KY6LA_Howard La Jolla, CA. Paris and Sablet FranceMember ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Glad to see you and your family were not hurt... as you said, equipment can always be replaced.

    When I lived in places that had rain... total disconnect of everything was the only thing that was 100%... still you miss little things like wall warts that get fried..


    Fortunately i now live in SoCal where it almost never rains and i have only heard but not seen lightning once in 30+ years.. so no disconnects here - living dangerously??

    Again.. the best news is that you were not hurt
  • Bob Needleman
    Bob Needleman Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Be happy you don’t live in Central FL. Orlando area has the greatest no. Of lightning strikes in the Western Hemisphere. No. 2 in the world for lightning after an area in Central Africa. Bob K3AC
  • David Decoons, wo2x
    David Decoons, wo2x Member, Super Elmer Moderator
    edited June 2020
    Mark, The Astron may have blown MOVs inside. If that is all it can be a cheap repair. I hope you had a backup of the Pi SD card. E Dave wo2x
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi Lionel,

    I think for any kind of direct strike you are right.  There is little or nothing that will give the gap to survive.

    After this event and what happened I realize I cannot protect the entire house.  The TV that went was 10 years old and recently I've been toying with getting a new one anyway.  Interesting it took out the TV and my AppleTV that we use a lot.  Now that Smart TVs have AppleTV built right in it was a no brainer to replace with a better TV.

    I mean a new apple TV is like $149 and I could get and did get a very nice new TV with AppleTV built in for $599.  

    On some kind of auto-disconnect my plan has been to use linear rails of about 18 inches in length.  This would allow a separation of close to a foot.

    My original design was just for antennas but now must include 110V AC and 220V AC and 12V DC.   

    The device I'm going to redesign will have the ability to disconnect these things and 6 coax for antennas.  The issue I'm going to face is finding good A/C connectors especially for 220V that will work.   

    I'm quite tempted to go with the same technology as the old knife switches were a big piece of copper plate is wedged between two others for contact.  I can probably use the same design for 120, 220 and DC.  It just has to be pretty big and very reliable that is why I kind of like the knife switch idea.  But I need to do some looking around to figure out what might be best.

    My goal is to have all the radio gear/amp on one side of this thing.  All the power and antenna coax on the other.  I'd love to motor drive it so I could issue the disconnect command remotely but perhaps have a manual level that can be used to engage or disengage by hand.

    I don't think I'm going to try and do ethernet disconnect as I can use fiber to isolate the ethernet between the main and radio side.  Small fiber units are pretty cheap.  I would not care if the house side fried.  I'd just replace it and a new piece of fiber.

    The funny thing is my wife is begging me to do this.  She wants me to get my radio gear repaired but she wants a disconnect  system, one that she can operate to help save this stuff.
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi Dave,

    I do have Pis and backups of all.    When I get time I'll open the power supply and take a look.   The one that went was from the 80's.  The newer one I have seems to have survived.
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    I am!   This was an eye opener for sure.  Not about the equipment but about how destructive it could be and how close it can get.

    The surreal part was the damaging strike that I still cannot figure out exactly where it hit.   The orange "pre-glow" followed a second or so later by the simultaneous flash/boom and sparks around the sliding glass door.  

    Quite the event and a real eye opener!

    As a former airline pilot who flew turboprops I've seen Saint Elmo's Fire where the aircraft is virtually encased in a huge static charge.   It was something to see the props outlined with rings a static that danced about and discharged into the air and on the air frame.

    Never seen ball lighting but after this experience really don't think I want to unless its on youtube!
  • KT0AM  - Mark
    KT0AM - Mark Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Wow, Mark, that's quite a terrible and cautionary tale! Watching the Denver news that night, I was amazed when they showed the number of lightning strikes from that one storm, it was quite the anomaly. I tend to be somewhat nonchalant when thunderstorms move through the area but this is definitely a wake up call; hopefully you can recover quickly.
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Ian, putting together the list this morning.  This definitely was not a direct strike and I have yet to find where the strike was.  But it was close enough to fry a bunch of stuff.

    Mark
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi Bob, sad thing is I had it and I let it lapse unknowingly.   I will likely put it back in force!
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Agreed 100%
  • Bob Needleman
    Bob Needleman Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    No, you don't need a direct lightning strike to cause major damage to any electronic devices connected to your electric service. An EMP (electromagnetic pulse) can come via the grid and into your AC mains and hit every electrical device connected to it. You may not even see or hear the lightning. But there usually is some type of electrical storm in the area at the time, although it can be several miles away. That's why disconnecting completely from the AC mains (and the coax for antennas) is the only way to insure safety from EMP events. 
  • KL4QG
    KL4QG Come on Man ,That Thing you know That Thing. Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    We had lighting Sunday only happens about 4 times year up here in Bethel AK 
    I pulled plug on 6400M and icom 7300
    joe
    KL4QG
  • WK2Y
    WK2Y Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    I have a little Acu-Rite lightning alert gizmo that  I keep on most of the time. It's on my desk.   Not always but often enough it will let me know of a distant lightning strike.  I also have some weather apps on my PC which will let me know.    You can't totally rely on them though.  Sometimes I will hear the thunder off in the distance before the monitor or apps alert me.   I think I need a monitor on the roof but I have to decide what to get. 
  • KL4QG
    KL4QG Come on Man ,That Thing you know That Thing. Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    i have an living Auto lighting alert>>>
    My dog starts crying and staring  out the   window he than starts pestering the Cat than Cat slaps the dog in face like  to say grow up dog=-Cats rule!!!!

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