Direct hit: Protecting your home from lightning strikes

Thunderstorms return to Northeast Florida, as does potential for strikes

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As summer approaches and temperatures turn warmer, thunderstorms have returned to the River City and so has the potential for lightning strikes.

Last Friday afternoon, lightning was to blame for a large house fire in St. Augustine. The following day, a lightning strike caused a house fire on the Northside. No injuries were reported in either incident.

"We're heading to our lightning season where we have daily thunderstorms," News4Jax meteorologist Mark Collins said.

As lightning strikes are considered an "act of God" by insurance companies, they generally will not be covered. However, there are some things homeowners can do to protect their house from a direct hit.

News4Jax looked at three pieces of technology:

  • Faraday shield
  • Lightning dissipator
  • Lightning rod

A Faraday shield is essentially an array of lightning rods that blocks the lightning. The device is very expensive and not typically used for residential applications.

Lightning dissipators consist of many small spikes and prevent strikes by slowly discharging electricity through each spike. It's typically used in preventing damage to sensitive electronic equipment.

The lightning rod remains the most common device to protect a home.

"Lightning rods do not attract lightning. Lightning is going to try to hit the path that's easiest to get to the ground," Collins said. "You have something there that's not attracting the lightning, but makes its path to the ground easier."

Installation, however, is not easy.

"You would need a professional," Collins said. "If it's not grounded properly, what you're doing is inviting lightning into your home, and it will just destroy your home."

If a thunderstorm is coming through, The Weather Authority also recommends using surge protectors to protect electronics and appliances.

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