Lightning only has to strike once: Protect your home | Entertainment/Life

My next-door neighbor, Jo, was in her living room reading. Her husband was watching television nearby. My husband was home working on his computer, when suddenly: 

Flash! Crack! Boom!

“The loudest thunder I have ever heard and a big white flash struck all at once, jolting me out of my chair,” Jo said. The TV went black. At our place, the thunderstruck dogs dove under my husband’s desk and stayed there.

Meanwhile, I was stuck on a circling plane that couldn’t land due to weather, missing all the action. 

Lightning had struck a cable line between our two houses, zapping both.

Extensive damage

Jo’s house got hit worse. The strike took down her home’s air conditioner, three Apple TV boxes, the internet, cable television, water heater and the smart system that controls the lighting and sound systems. “The lights that were on I couldn’t turn off; the ones that were off I couldn’t turn on,” she said. 

They would spend weeks (including two weeks in Florida in August without air conditioning) dealing with their insurance company and service workers to repair or replace the blown home systems, damage, which, at last tally, cost an electrifying $40,000. 

Meanwhile, at our place, the same bolt from the blue knocked out our air conditioner, cable television, irrigation control box and five recessed can lights. 

Get the right protection

All — Jo and I now know — could have been prevented had we had proper surge protection. Many power companies, including ours, provide it if you ask. 

“What you had was a very near ground strike that was close to being a direct strike,” said Peter Jackson, an electrical engineer at Kenick, a Florida-based company that makes surge-protection systems and provides them to utility companies in over 10 states. “The ripple effect was strong because you were so close.” 

About 80% of residents who sign up for his company’s surge-protection program do so after they have a lightning event, he added. Jo and I are now part of that forehead-smacking statistic. 

“Although you can’t keep lightning from…