Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Lightning strikes

Still at home but preparing to get back on Patience, there were massive local and long lasting lightning strikes which kept us awake and were very close indeed!
Of course it's common to say that the odds of being struck by lightning are low, but years ago a house I was in (and on the top floor at the time) was struck by lightning and I saw the wood splinters and debris falling past my window, leaving a jagged line on the glass. Since then I've sometimes wondered whether my odds of being hit have narrowed or not.
Anyway, there I was, grateful I wasn't lying in Patience with water and thunder and lightning all around me, but trying to remember whether a narrow boat is a Faraday Cage or not and whether I dare touch the metal window frame.

Now, scanning the forums, I see that the odds of being hit in a narrow boat are very low. Ships at sea are frequently hit, but then they may be the only thing above sea level for many miles. Narrow boats are generally at a low level in cuts and on rivers where trees are far more likely to take the strike. In fact the danger there is more being hit by a smoking branch than the lightning itself!
So the odds are low. If you are struck it's almost sure that you'll be protected by the Faraday Cage effect. If moored up (and who'd want to be under way when there's lightning about?) try to be fairly near - but not under - trees. Minimise the slight risk by taking down or at least disconnecting a TV aerial so any charge doesn't fry your TV on the way out. Avoid use of umbrellas, especially where clamped to the superstructure, whose metal points can attract a charge.
But sleep tight. For a narrow boat on UK waterways, as Macbeth would have observed, lightning storms are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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