Month: April 2017

Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning: Fact Check

Someone sent me an email with a link earlier this week. He wanted me to use a quote out of Mark Twain’s short story, “Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning,” but instead I read the story. Twain writes about a couple that argues over common thought on lightning and lightning protection here in the Southeast in the late 1800’s. I encourage you to give it a read. It is funny how little things have changed over the  past 125 years. Instead of looking at one quote, I’m going to cover a few pieces of Mrs. McWilliams’ thoughts on lightning and its behavior.


A man wakes up to his wife screaming for him to get up while hiding in the boot closet in the middle of a thunderstorm. Once he is awake he immediately starts an argument about why he doesn’t need to take cover during the storm. (Like I said, not much has changed in the past 125 years.) The cool part is how their argument covers what will and will not cause and protect you from a lightning strike.

What Does Protect Mrs. McWilliams from Lightning?

Hiding in a Boot Closet

Unfortunately, lightning isn’t coming to play hide and seek. Mrs. McWilliams immediately seeks shelter in the boot closet once she hears the first clap of thunder. Lightning is not coerced by where you are within your house, or even if you’re in your house at all. She chastises her husband for lying on their bed in the middle of a storm. She puffs,

Don`t talk to me, [Mr. McWilliams]. You know there is no place so dangerous as a bed, in such a thunder-storm as this, — all the books say that.

I don’t know what lightning protection books existed back then, but NASA’s findings and the code for the NFPA, the Lightning Protection Institute, and Underwriters Laboratories are unanimous that this is certainly not the case. If anything, a boot closet would be more dangerous than the bed because it will be harder to get outside of your house if it were to be struck. We have to give it to Mr. McWilliams on this one.

You Need Lightning Rods

She is frustrated with the way her husband is acting and would feel more protected if a lightning protection system was installed on their home.

I don`t see how you can act so, when you know there is not a lightning-rod on the place, and your poor wife and children are absolutely at the mercy of Providence.

Lightning protection systems do work. This point goes to the Missus.

Lightning is Attracted to Light

Once Mr. McWilliams finally gets out of bed he starts to light a match because it is dark since it’s the middle of the night. Mrs. McWilliams becomes flustered because she thinks that the light will actually attract lightning.

What are you doing? — lighting a match at such a time as this! Are you stark mad? …Put it out! put it out instantly! Are you determined to sacrifice us all? You know there is nothing attracts lightning like a light. [Fzt! — crash! boom — boloom-boom-boom!] Oh, just hear it! Now you see what you`ve done!

Lightning is only attracted to the most efficient path to ground. While metal conducts electricity better than other materials by providing less resistance, it has much more to do with height than material, and definitely not fire. Sorry, Mrs. McWilliams.

Lightning is Attracted to Wool

Now it looks like the two are going to be up for a while, so Mr. McWilliams starts to get dressed. He looks for his wool pantaloons. Mrs. McWilliams won’t have it.

Quick! throw those things away! I do believe you would deliberately put on those clothes at such a time as this; yet you know perfectly well that all authorities agree that woolen stuffs attract lightning.

Back on what does and does not attract lightning. Even if wool was conductive, it is a small amount of wool within the house, and the same amount of will will be in the house regardless of whether Mr. McWilliams is wearing it.

Singing Attracts Lightning

After Mrs. McWilliams tries to keep Mr. McWilliams from getting dressed in the name of a lightning strike, he decides to start to sing.

Mrs. McWilliams: Oh, don`t sing! What can you be thinking of?

Mr. McWilliams: Now where`s the harm in it?

Mrs. McWilliams: If I have told you once, I have told you a hundred times, that singing causes vibrations in the atmosphere which interrupt the flow of the electric fluid.

Mrs. McWilliams makes an effort to reason some of this stuff out scientifically now, but unfortunately she’s got it all wrong. While singing does send out vibrations, it will not affect the atmosphere, and lightning isn’t a fluid.

Mrs. McWilliams Takeaways

While it is humorous to read through this short story, it covers a pretty grave subject. Mrs. McWilliams, for all her misdirected thoughts on lightning, is right about how scary lightning can be. Lightning has the ability to blow bricks off of the side of a house or burn it down altogether. She was also right that she would be safer with a lightning protection system installed on her home. A lightning protection system could divert the charges away from her home and safely in the ground. The couple could have avoided this entire argument and the loss of a good night’s sleep with one call to us.

How to Spot Surge Damage (and What to Do About it)

It’s that time of the year again – thunderstorm season. If April showers do, in fact, bring May flowers we’re gonna have some bigguns this year. Unfortunately, with those showers comes dangerous lightning. Even though lightning may have never struck your house directly, your home could still have lightning damage. Surge damage is prominent in the Southeast, and especially here in Atlanta.

Many of the requests we get for lightning protection installation isn’t when lightning has directly struck a building but when lightning has struck a tree or another nearby object and has then come into the building through the electrical panel. From the electrical panel, the surge can come through your home and ruin fans, chandeliers, tvs, computers, etc. A single surge issue can cause thousands of dollars on even a smaller home.

How to Spot Surge Damage

Surge damage is very common in homes. Nearly any electrical error that happens can be caused by surge damage. One of our company owners had a Wii and a tv damaged by lightning on two different occasions. After a storm, if you notice tvs, light switches, game consoles, or anything else that runs off of electricity, then there is a  good chance that you have a surge problem.

What to Do About Surge Damage

The best way to protect against surge damage isn’t to go buy surge protectors like the one in this image. Popular belief is that these types of surge protectors somehow magically take all of the charge of a lightning strike from a tv. While these surge protectors are suggested to be installed in your home to protect against any charge that gets past your main surge protector, you need a surge protector installed on your electrical panel.

Electric Panel Surge Protectors

In a complete lightning protection system, the Lightning Protection Institute requires that a surge system be installed in conjunction with the lightning protection system. This surge system is made up of large surge protectors that are installed on your electrical box or boxes. This is a real surge protector that is meant to take a charge from a lightning bolt. Keep in mind that surge protectors need to be replaced once they have been exposed to a certain amount of charge, so it is critical that they be inspected after each thunderstorm.

It is vital that your home has a surge protection system installed on your home in conjunction with your lightning protection system. Surge issues happen more often than direct strikes. If you aren’t sure whether there is a surge system installed on your home or building feel free to contact us via the contact form on our contact page or give us a call.

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