LIGHTNING!

OK GOD! You have my attention!

IMG 3418HIS signatureI received a wake-up call from the Heavens on August 30, 2020 Sunday morning about 05:00AM. It was in the form of a lighting bolt to my vertical antenna. Someone up there is running more than the legal limit! The “Big Guy” or his son…

 

A detailed story is posted in my “RamblinDan” blog HERE: https://ramblindan.org/?p=5337

When one can summon that kind power, I will pay attention.

The R7 aluminum vertical elements withstood the force. But the matching network at the bottom exploded into fragments. A few scraps were found scattered over the back yard.

But message didn’t stop there.

It followed the feed line to my office/ham shack and put my TenTec Omni VII to hopefully a far better place than earthly existence.

The surge passed easily through my open antenna switch, welding it in the “G” grounded position where I had left it. I usually disconnect the small coax from the switch to the rig, but that wasn’t done. The weather report was for no storms overnight. But in TEXAS, the weathermen can only guess…

The surge entered the Omni VII via the top antenna connection. (There are three). I haven’t opened the case but the insides sound like a baby rattle. It exited the Omni via the DC power line burning out the connector plug and exploding the external fuse.

It entered the DC power supply and wreaked havoc on its internal parts. It left via the 120 Volt power cord burning and exploding the 120 Volt socket and plug. This left a fairly large burn area on the Desk.  HIS signature

The MFG (Message From God) proceeded to the APC (brand) surge protector to which the power cord was connected. It traveled through that device like it didn’t exist and spread the message far and wide. Read the “rest of the story...  (Paul Harvey)" in RamblinDan link above.

…-.-

The good part is I am not a Silent Key. No personal bodily injuries or death. The OMNI VII is a gonner but it is just stuff. And stuff can be replaced. Some day or someway or maybe never. That is to be determined.

I know one thing. My shack is no longer sharing space with my office. Any device communicating through the "Ether" rather than the ethernet (LAN) or Internet (WAN), needs to have its own space. Like on the other side of the house. Or its own stand-alone shack! 

Yes, GOD… I have heard and will obey…

I followed MOST of the rules. DC ground antenna, disconnect on antenna, power surge protectors (which spread the damage) …but not all the rules. My point well demonstrated is that lightning has no rules and certainly doesn’t pay attention to those from mere mortal humans.

But amateur radio stations with outdoor antennas need to be as isolated as possible from all other electrical services and devices in the area. That area must be determined by the station owner and builder. That’s why we study and take tests.

I was lax. I got comfortable with the convenience of having my “shack” built into my office equipment environment. Too comfortable. This house was struck a decade ago, but entrance path was not via the antenna system and exact same station equipment. Just lucky then. It was the first message from above.

I can compare it to motorcycle riding. It’s not about IF you will have an accident, but WHEN. And how well you are prepared to survive and by take proper action to minimize injury.

Injury can be survivable, but death isn’t.

Could I have done more? Most certainly. I will be much more professional with my next installation. 

When I started this advocation over 50 years ago, the modern “electronic home office” didn’t exist. Just a phone line and a single phone. It was a “big deal” if I could run a “phone patch” for a military person in Antarctica. I certainly wasn’t posting to a web site via computer from my radio station / home office.

NEW RULE:  Follow all the old rules about lighting protection and build the ARS (Amateur Radio Station) as isolated as possible from all other electrical systems and equipment. Employ all NEC grounding rules for radio installations.

WiFi connection to the ARS computer is a must for internet connection. Low cost Fiber Optic connection is also available. Disconnect external antenna feeds from all radios not in use. Go QRT when storms approach. 

I wasn’t operating at 5:00AM on a Sunday. But if I was, this story may not have been written. Just seeing the sparks fly (I am sure they did) may have frightened me to death…

One sure bet. My next shack will be much better. I understand the message.

IMG 1969 IMG 3434
 Station W5EHS equipment installed in my offce environment. Before "The Message"  From the front the OMNI VII seems well enough.
IMG 3437 IMG 3436
 Not so good from back here.  ANT 1 overheated and some burn
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 DC Input (Lightning out) burned and exploaded  White DC plug blown out from socket on OMNI VII. A/C plug also blown out.
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 Closer view. Both connections blown out.  APC surge protector internal arching which propagated the surge far and wide to everything in the house and out into the street cable network.