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 > Motorhomes and Lightning

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AtlantaGuy

Atlanta, GA

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Posted: 04/22/11 10:24pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Here's a few things I've often wondered about while motorhome camping during severe lightning storms. Anyone know the answers?

1.) Will closing all windows in a motorhome help to protect you in the event of a direct or nearby lightning strike?

2.) Should level jacks be positioned up, down or does it matter?

3.) If lightning struck a large tree that you were camped directly under, would all those inside a motorhome likely remain safe? If not, how far away from the tree would one need to be to greatly minimize risk?

4.) If lightning struck your nearby picnic table canopy (metal framed) would those in the motorhome likely remain safe?

5.) If lightning stuck your motorhome directly, what's the probability of your onboard propane tank exploding - - or would that be the least of my worries?

6.) When lightning strikes a utility pole and makes contact with it's wiring, how far does the surge of electricity typically travel over the wiring from the initial point of contact?

6.) in the event of a direct strike, are motorhomes with fiberglass walls just as safe as those with aluminum or metal siding? What's the best exterior to have in this case?

7.) Do tall CB antennas on a motorhome increase your risk of being struck by lightning?

8.) Does lightning always go around a completely enclosed structure or can it sometimes pass straight thru it?

9.) Why is standing under a small shelter such as a wooden roof over a picnic area sometimes considered more unsafe that not being under one?

No, I don't let thunderstorms ruin the joy I get from camping but I have wondered about these things during bad storms.

Thanks for any answers you may be able to provide.


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Eycom

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Posted: 04/22/11 11:36pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I couldn't hazard a guess to all those questions. I've heard tell of people standing near a tree and getting fried. About 58 years ago, ball lightning came through our kitchen window, rolled across the dining table and exited through a solid wall. The people sitting at the table had their minds blown, but were unscathed. Pretty unpredictable, I'd say. Short of being a bonafide card totin' candidate for the Darwin award, I believe when it's my time to go, there isn't much I can do to mitigate that fact. Until then, I see no point in concerning myself with the possibilities.


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skipnchar

Topeka or somewhere else

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Posted: 04/23/11 07:44am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The safest place for you to be as it relates to lightening is in your motor home or most other vehicles. The Faraday effect will protect the OCCUPANTS of the vehicle from lightening but no such luck for your equipment. Electronics are likely to be damaged or completely ruined by a direct strike or even an indirect strike on power lines nearby. About the only thing that I would advise during heavy lightening is to unplug from shore power to protect against those power line hits. As for that TV antennae, it MAY attract lightening but since it's ungrounded it would be a poor lightening rod. If it did take a hit and was not grounded pretty much the same as being hit anywhere else in the RV. Faraday protects occupants and equipment better look out.


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camperpaul

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Posted: 04/23/11 01:27am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

AtlantaGuy wrote:

Here's a few things I've often wondered about while motorhome camping during severe lightning storms. Anyone know the answers?

1.) Will closing all windows in a motorhome help to protect you in the event of a direct or nearby lightning strike?

Closing the widows will keep you dry but will have no effect on your safety from lightning.

2.) Should level jacks be positioned up, down or does it matter?

It doesn't matter.

3.) If lightning struck a large tree that you were camped directly under, would all those inside a motorhome likely remain safe? If not, how far away from the tree would one need to be to greatly minimize risk?

It is likely the tree would be split by the lightning and pieces of it would fall on your rig.

4.) If lightning struck your nearby picnic table canopy (metal framed) would those in the motorhome likely remain safe?

Not a problem.

5.) If lightning stuck your motorhome directly, what's the probability of your on-board propane tank exploding - - or would that be the least of my worries?

Don't worry about it.

6.) When lightning strikes a utility pole and makes contact with it's wiring, how far does the surge of electricity typically travel over the wiring from the initial point of contact?

Anywhere from a few hundred feet to a few hundred miles. It depends on a lot of factors.

6.) in the event of a direct strike, are motorhomes with fiberglass walls just as safe as those with aluminum or metal siding? What's the best exterior to have in this case?

Fiberglass and plastic provide no protection at all. Aluminum or steel (both are metals) will provide the best protection.

7.) Do tall CB antennas on a motorhome increase your risk of being struck by lightning?

Depending on the design of the antenna, it can act as a lightning rod and actually prevent a lightning strike.

8.) Does lightning always go around a completely enclosed structure or can it sometimes pass straight through it?

It depends on the construction of the structure.

9.) Why is standing under a small shelter such as a wooden roof over a picnic area sometimes considered more unsafe that not being under one?

The lightning strikes the wet roof and then strikes you.

No, I don't let thunderstorms ruin the joy I get from camping but I have wondered about these things during bad storms.

Thanks for any answers you may be able to provide.



Paul
Extra Class Ham Radio operator - K9ERG (since 1956)
Retired Electronics Engineer and Antenna Designer
Was a campground host at IBSP (2006-2010) - now retired.
Single - Full-timer
2005 Four Winds 29Q
2011 2500HD 6.0L GMC Denali (Gasser)


MNtundraRet

Bloomington, MN

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Posted: 04/23/11 06:44am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Atlanta Guy:

Don't forget to unplug the power-cord.

Close the windows to keep out the rain.

Close the vents or the wind may rip them off.

Less chance of water leaks if you close the slideouts.

Don't forget to properely ground your antenna.

Don't take the site with the large old tree looking like any wind will blow it down on top of your RV. I prefer sites with younger trees if there is a good possibity of a storm.

If you really worry that much about a storm, I wonder why you camp and drag along the radio equipment.

It's a good thing you did not take up sailboat racing with a aluminum mast and booms. No one likes to quit a race if they are leading, so you keep on racing.

* This post was edited 04/23/11 08:54am by MNtundraRet *


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bradley455

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Posted: 04/23/11 07:43am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

As a electrician and ham radio operator , i ve seen a lot of lighting damage. that stuff can almost travel on any path to ground. ive seen it hit aluminum siding on a house , outside light fixtures ,it always looking for a good path to earth....you can have better ground than your neighbor and it still could hit your house...the best idea to protect from lighting strikes is to have it travel around the the outside of the structure to ground ,thats why on hospitals you see lighting rods (some old farm houses too)on the corners and a wire that travels between them and going down the side of the structure to several ground rods. your old tv antennas used to act like this .they had a ground wire to a ground rod. radio towers have the most grounding done to them, many rods at different points , everything is grounded ,fences, gates, the wires to hold the tower up and they still get hit..just another little fact, when i worked for the railroad if there was lighting or a storm near by we got our work done and off the tracks , if lighting hit a rail it could travel for miles down that rail till it found a path to earth. in your house you usually have ground rods and that is primarily used for lighting strike protection , in the camp ground they have ground rods to but they may be located far away from your source of power( hook up at the camper) most of the time at the main service they will be located....so lighting could hit your rig and travel though it (ground wire) and hopefully out the ground wire to the ground rods at the service . thats the theory. lighting will find the least resistance to earth and strike, so if you are that point ????? have good insurance...

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Posted: 04/23/11 08:37am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Moved from Lifestyle

camperpaul

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Posted: 04/23/11 08:50am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

MNtundraRet wrote:

Paul:

My comments are in bold.

Don't forget to unplug the power-cord.

Not a problem for me but it would be for others.

Close the windows to keep out the rain.

I stated this in my first post in this thread.

Close the vents or the wind may rip them off.

That is a given.

Less chance of water leaks if you close the slideouts.

That would work for rigs with slide-outs; mine doesn't have them.

Don't forget to properly ground your antenna.

All antennas are at DC ground and shunt fed.

Don't take the site with the large old tree looking like any wind will blow it down on top of your RV. I prefer sites with younger trees if there is a good possibility of a storm.

Yup.

If you really worry that much about a storm, I wonder why you camp and drag along the radio equipment.

As a full-timer, everything I own goes with me. My radio equipment will survive an EMP.

It's a good thing you did not take up sailboat racing with a aluminum mast and booms. No one likes to quit a race if they are leading, so you keep on racing.

Four round trips from NOLA to London in an 82 ft ketch with lightning rods on top of both aluminum masts. Never got hit but did get to watch the corona discharge at the rod tips many times.






MNtundraRet

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Posted: 04/23/11 09:01am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Sorry Paul:

I meant Atlanta Guy. You copied his post which comfussed me. I was just starting on my first cup of coffee. I picked up your name by mistake in your reply. Actually the comments worked since you are an old sailer too. I do agree with your replies. The antenna reference was to your separate CB antenna, or HAM radio mast, since I mistook the post as your's.

Mark

* This post was edited 04/23/11 09:18am by MNtundraRet *

bradley455

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Posted: 04/23/11 07:52am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

just curious, the faraday effect? how does that effect lighting ? are you saying something about magnetics and rotation?

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