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    Jesse Ferrell

    Videos: Lightning Hits Radar, Power Transformers

    By Jesse Ferrell, Meteorologist/Community Director
    3/20/2012, 8:57:24 AM

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    The O.U. Prime Radar, a research weather radar system at the University of Oklahoma was struck by lightning at 9:20 a.m. local time today, as shown by this video of a security camera uploaded by the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla:


    Vaisala detected over 14,000 lightning strikes in Oklahoma this morning and early afternoon:


    Having examined lightning strike videos up close, and debunked several hoaxes, it does look like the radar was hit. Indeed, the last radar image available was from 9:14 AM. It's unknown at this time whether or not the radar is damaged; radars are normally protected from damage from a direct lightning strike.

    Not only that; in Columbus, Ohio, another webcam witnessed lightning hitting a power transformer (probably one on a pole, I would guess). The video was shot Sunday night by a WBNS webcam:

    Vaisala's lightning detection network detected nearly 10,000 strikes between 4-9 PM last night in Ohio. During the last 36 hours, over 180,000 lightning strikes hit the ground in the U.S. according to Vaisala.


    And last (but clearly, not least) @marksregard (Mark C. from the NW suburbs of D.C.) tweeted me some incredible photos from Galax, Virginia on Saturday. Lightning had struck a power transformer box nearby, blowing a hole in it. The telephone and cable box on his house was also heavily damaged. Check out the other pictures for melted copper, blackened plastic, and more.


    Mark emailed me his story:

    "Here's the story...from my dad's perspective: There were Special Weather Statements issued for surrounding areas, but, no warnings or watches for severe storms in Galax. However, around 6pm the intensity of the storm increased. I was watching the TV and my wife decided to unplug the power cord from her laptop as she checked email with the wireless connection. Suddenly there was a huge pop, louder than any lightning strike I had ever heard. We knew it had hit something outside. I heard what sounded like the TV with static in the bedroom. We ran to the bedroom to find the TV off, but, the saw yellow/blue flames coming from the HVAC vent in the floor. We then realized the whole house was buzzing. We then heard water running into the basement but realized there was an electrical fire and the house was charged. We grabbed our cell phones and ran outside."


    "Once outside we saw the burning power transformer across the road. We dialed 911 who promptly sent the Fire Dept, Power Company, City water crews, and police. They used an insulated glove to turn the water to the home off. Once the transformer burnt out, the electricity stopped flowing. The Fire Dept used special heat sensors to ensure the home wasn't burning. With daybreak we were able to full asses the damage. The power meter was damaged and disconnected from the home and the cable tv box had been torn/blown from the house and burnt the grass. The ground cable for the outside AC unit was melted. The Power company called their supervisors to assess the damage. They ended up replacing the underground power cable from the transformer down the street. They realized this neighborhood was built in the early 70's when the water/electric/phone/cable all shared the same trench. The plumbers and electricians worked to repair the home damage as the power crews dug up all the electric lines in the neighborhood to replace them. Everyone stood by as the power was first sent to the home. As soon as it was turned on the cable TV junction box for the neighborhood exploded, sending firemen running to it. They then realized that the underground cable on the other side of the transformer was also damaged and would have to be replaced. They replaced it on Sunday, and upon activating it, the rest of the cable TV boxes and one phone box caught on fire. In the end, nobody was hurt and no appliances/electronics were destroyed. A few new pipes, new grounding and a few new wires and life is back to normal."

    This kind of lightning damage is not only fascinating (I've never seen a photo of a transformer box hit directly), but something familiar to me. Not only have I been within 30 feet of a lightning strike three times in my life; June 17 will be the 25th anniversary of lightning striking my house in the foothills of North Carolina, causing similar substantive damage. I blogged extensively about my experience for the 20th anniversary, so I'll spare the whole story for now (but look for more info in June).


    The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com


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    Jesse Ferrell