Situated as they often are, alongside lakes and rivers and surrounded by trees, cottages and lakefront homes can be particulary vunerable targets for lightning strikes, especially during summer thunder and lightning storms.
What Is Lightning?
Wilkipedia describes lightning as: “Lightning is a massive electrostatic discharge caused by unbalanced electric charge in the atmosphere, either inside clouds, cloud to cloud or cloud to ground, accompanied by the loud sound of thunder.”
A lightning strike can be deadly, or it can cause all kinds of damage to your cottage. In addition to the immediate damage from a direct strike, such as a hole in the roof, a fire, or the destruction of your electronics, such as radios, televisions etc, a lightning strike can also melt the insulation on wires which can result in a fire.
The scary part is, the fire may not start for a long time. Wires can melt or be perforated and subsequent arcing can ignite a fire. That type of lightning damage can be difficult, if not impossible to detect, and often the cause of the fire is not immediately attributed to a lightning strike.
Here is a picture of “anvil to ground lightning in Darwin, NT, Australia, courtesy of Bidgee, published under a Wilkipedia Creative Commons Licence
Danger To Cottages
Cottages are particularly susceptible to lightning strikes for several reasons. Their proximity to wide open spaces, such as open water, bare, rocky ground that has poor natural grounding, and nearby tall trees who’s root system can channel lightning to the cottage.
The following picture, published under a Creative Commons Licence is by John R. Southern from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, showing a lightning strike over Toronto in 2007.
In addition, because cottages are often unoccupied, you may not even know that your place has been struck by lightning and in remote locations, it can burn to the ground before anyone realizes.
The following map from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources represents any typical storm occurrence throughout south/central/east Ontario.
This illustration shows peak lightning activity in the Barrie/Lake Simcoe area of Ontario, Canada, but peak activity can occur anywhere in any storm zone. Each season there are between 30 and 35 days with thunderstorm and lightning
Are you scared yet? You should be….and contrary to popular belief, lightning does strike the same place twice, in fact, places susceptible to lightning strikes remain susceptible and are likely targets.
Over 1.4 Billion Flashes
According to John E. Oliver in the Encyclopedia of World Climatology. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ISBN 978-1-4020-3264-6, lightning strikes 40–50 times a second worldwide, for a total of nearly 1.4 billion flashes per year. That’s a lot of lightning.
There are several different types of devices, including lightning rods and electrical charge dissipators, that are used to prevent lightning damage and safely redirect lightning strikes.
A lightning rod is a metal strip or rod, usually of copper or similar conductive material, used as part of lightning safety to protect tall or isolated structures from lightning damage. Its formal name is “lightning finial” or “air terminal”.
Lightning rods are typically mounted on top of a building and electrically bonded using a wire or electrical conductor to connect with the ground through an electrode.
If lightning strikes the building it will preferentially strike the rod and be conducted to ground through the wire, instead of passing through the building, where it could start a fire or cause electrocution.
Want to know more about lightning strikes? Check out Dominion Lightning