I've had some close calls in the past but mostly on boats. I did almost get hit coming out of the water at Crystal Pier when I was younger--the storm came up and caught everyone by surprise, green clouds, 15 deg temp drop then lightning everywhere all within about 5 minutes. I was running under the pier when lightning struck the surf zone piling near the pier about 30 feet from me. Made the filling in my molar tingle.
The craziest lightning I have ever experienced was delivering a sailboat with a friend to Brunswick, GA about 10 years ago. We were about 70 miles offshore of Georgetown, SC when a super cell mushroomed. It looked like a jellyfish with all the water spouts reaching from the clouds to the water. Usually you can change course and get around a storm like that offshore, but this one just kept growing. The radar and the navsat were some of the craziest color combinations I have ever seen--the winds were gusting at 60-70 knots inside the storm and, of course waterspouts everywhere (just so everyone knows, water spouts are not nearly the power of a tornado--they are more like dust devils on the water).
We furled all the sails, put up the storm sail and sent out the water anchor so we could heave-to and get below to ride it out--we also radioed the Coasties to make sure they were paying attention to us. "Good luck" they said. When we were below the swells picked up to 8-12' and we were getting thrashed, then the lightning started. It was literally everywhere. I'm not sure how many times the boat was directly hit, but it did some pretty serious damage. The grounding straps that go from the mast to the keel (to channel lightning into the water) started to heat up and burn their sheathing and the wall carpet that sandwiched them to the hull. It also back-fed into the main panel, but luckily we previously disconnected everything except one of the VHF's--it melted.
We made it out after about an hour and went back topside to survey the carnage. Anything metal on the deck was still about 150 degrees. The stanchion mounting plates on the deck melted the gel coat around them, the storm sail was singed, the wind generator was melted as well as the ignition switch for the diesel, the radar would no longer work. I have never seen anything like it before: sailboats can take a lot of strikes, but enough to heat things up that much is almost unheard of and I will say that I never want to experience something like that again.
We made it into Brunswick early the next morning to complete the delivery. We also found out the extent of damage from the insurance surveyor: $30,000. Entire electrical system was compromised not to mention the smoke damage in the cabin and all the gelcoat work that needed to be done on the outside. I was just glad to be back.
We had an order to pick up a 34' Rampage in Brunswick and bring it back to Wilmington the next day...... we took the Intracoastal the entire way!
That is friggen nuts dude. Glad you're still around to put that in writing.
Originally Posted by Erock
Open boats are some of the most dangerous places to be, statistically. Boats with cabins and grounding systems are relatively safe(er).
Eroc... that's some crazy zhit. You guys got POUNDED.
Yeah, worst I have ever experienced and I have spent some serious time offshore.
One thing: the sailboat was a 42' Island Packet. There are only a couple boat manufacturers I would feel even marginally confident in those conditions, and IP is at the top of the short list. However, the reason the power back-fed WAS a manufacturing defect....
At least the boat didn't catch on fire. I have had that happen too... but the boat was at the dock.
That sounds like a story right out of Weisbecker's Captain Zero. crazy!!!
In the local paper this morning, there is an eyewitness account of what happened. Apparently she was not just standing there as some have suggested, but racing to get off the beach just like anybody would when severe weather approaches. Unfortunately she had beach supplies (metal chairs, umbrella, etc.) in hand. The lightning, from the eyewitness account, travelled down her and then back up again, lighting up all of supplies in hand.
The woman who observed this from her front door witnessed all of this, which I'm sure was traumatic to view.
So the facts are she was hurrying to get off the beach with the people she was with, not taking in the view of the storm. Just bad luck and bad timing. You can call it Darwinism if you like, but the majority of you I'm sure have been in a situation at some point in your life.
Fun surf out there this am.
Thanks, Ryan... still something to be learned.
The entire account takes up three pages front and back in my log book.
Originally Posted by SJerzSrfr
One thing I forgot to mention that I learned a long time ago. If you are on the water and a storm starts rolling up, you can tell where lightning is about to strike. The water will go oil-slick smooth in about a 10' wide circle where the lightning is about to hit. You see this, you have about 10 seconds to go tits to the deck.
Wow, nice tip, i'll keep that one in mind (10 seconds right?, check)
Originally Posted by Erock
Wow Erock- great story... in a nice boat... interesting about the lighting striking water. How many times would you estimate that the IP was hit?