When Lightning Strikes Your House…

We’ve all heard stories about lightning, but it’s one of those things you don’t really worry about. I’ve never been fearful in storms. I’ve never been one to let weather dictate my life or alter my plans. March 9th was just a regular day – I even wore a dress and ran errands around town and noticed it was really windy. Come to find out we were under a tornado watch (not as serious as a warning, but still it means conditions are favorable for a tornado to form).

It was storming pretty badly by the time I got home and I went into the bathroom in our master bedroom. I was literally sitting on the toilet when I heard this CRAZY loud crash sound, unlike anything I’d ever heard before. In instinct, I threw my phone. I’ve had people say that I may have been feeling some shock waves or something and that’s what caused my phone to fly out of my hands in that moment, but I don’t remember feeling anything. I just remember the sound!

My first concern was our outdoor cat, Lily. I went out our bathroom door to the backyard to call for her. I didn’t love her being outside in a lightning storm to begin with but since I’d gotten home while it was already raining I couldn’t find her and assumed she’d found a warm place to stay dry.

She didn’t come so I headed back out of the bathroom. The first thing I noticed was the top trim piece from our bedroom window was in the middle of the floor. As I walked closer to the window I could see a huge piece of glass poking through the blinds.

We are still not fully sure what exactly happened. We have a lot beside ours that has some trees. One of the trees hung over our house and thankfully over the summer the neighbor offered to let Zach use his equipment to trim the branches. We were SO fortunate that the tree didn’t fall onto our home. I could have really been hurt if things had happened just a bit differently!

When I looked out the bedroom window I saw that large tree was broken and that it had fallen towards the house. I could also see down the street that chunks of the tree were in the road. I also could see the cable box thing at the line of our property and the lot beside ours was busted up.

We think either the lightning had a direct strike into the tree and then hit the cable in the ground and spread from there OR it hit the cable box and spread from there which then caused the tree to “explode.”

Naturally, I had crazy adrenaline going on and was alone at the house when all of this occurred. I am SO thankful I had taken that bathroom break as I usually would be sitting in my office which is against the exterior wall of our house where the tree fell. Again, I’m counting my blessings big time in this whole situation! Although I am a bit bummed that I didn’t get to actually see the lightning bolt!

It was still badly storming so I couldn’t go outside to really inspect the damage. Our power was still on, which was surprising. My first concern was my computer since it was plugged into that exterior wall but thankfully the surge protector I had it plugged into worked beautifully! My computer was fine (and continues to work fine) but right away I did go ahead and purchase an external hard drive to back up everything onto as I heard from many people that lightning damage can take a while to really “show itself.”

I went ahead and unplugged my computer from that external wall and set it up in an interior hallway just to make sure it was all working okay. When I left our bedroom I noticed that 3 of the 4 pictures on the hallway wall were on the floor. Tessie, our easiest-going kid, was the only one left chilling on the wall…kinda fitting that the go-with-the-flow kid wouldn’t be impacted by the strike.

I look back at these moments and can tell I was in shock and not thinking super clearly. Like at first I looked through the blinds to see what was going on outside the window…it took me a bit to think to open the blinds which gave me a much better view of the lightning damage to the house. Truly, looking back, I should have called the fire department to come out and just make sure everything was okay. I should have also probably left the house for a while. I def am way more knowledgeable about lightning safety now and will be much more aware in the future.

From our window, I could see pieces of our fence as well as this big trench coming from what appeared to be the fallen branches through the now large opening where the fence posts used to be. I also noticed Zach’s closet (which shares that exterior wall) had several items that were pushed off the shelves and onto the floor. It’s so interesting how the lightning struck and then caused this ripple effect of random items responding to it.

We have two windows on that side of our home, the first in our bedroom and the second in Tess’s bedroom upstairs. Whenever we have a storm I always worry about Tess’s room because of that tree! I’ve always had this concern that the dang tree will fall on our roof and hurt my baby. When she started to want to sleep in Britt’s room I was all about it, especially in bad weather, because I feel like Britt’s room offers more protection since it’s not on an exterior wall.

Again, I was in shock of everything happening and it took a while to occur to me to go check upstairs. For all I knew we could have had a tree through the roof! I’m also so thankful we didn’t have any sort of electrical system fire issues – I was born without a sense of smell and our house could have legit been on fire and I wouldn’t have noticed at that point.

Thankfully when I got up there I didn’t notice any initial damage to Tess’s bedroom. I saw that her clock was off the wall – which was interesting because the wall it hangs on is an interior wall. I also noticed that her window was damaged. Thankfully only the exterior glass portion of the window was broken and not the interior side.

I could also have a much better view from her window as it’s so much higher and gives such a better perspective. I could really see just how closely the tree did fall towards the house and could see the large trench that had formed and filled with water which clearly caused the fence to explode since I saw pieces of the fence in the tree branches!

What we think happened is when the lightning struck and it hit that wiring system it followed the cable all the way through the yard, literally exploding anything in its path. It created the trench from where the cable was struck by the lightning. It traveled either through the tree and caused it to explode or it started at the tree and went from there and caused the fence to explode.

Our windows didn’t break from the lightning. Or the tree. We realized that the windows actually had been broken by the fence. When it exploded the wood pieces of fencing broke the glass of both windows and also caused dirt and debris to hit the side of the house, even taking some pieces of the siding off as well.

I am very thankful that our home has a TALL second story and that the roof is so high that no damage at all was done to the roofing (we don’t have to replace any roof shingles at all!) and that we had so minor damage or concerns to the inside of our house. Yes, it’s been a pain to have to replace different items from the electrical issues, but truly we don’t have super significant damage and it could have been so – SO – much worse.

Once it stopped storming I was able to go outside and inspect things a bit more. The trench was deep enough to almost be like it’s own little river flowing. I could see the dirt and broken windows and get a better look at the tree.

I was also able to see the electrical system box on the side of our house and the damage caused there as well. The casing was completely blown away and all of the wirings were exposed. We are so thankful our home didn’t catch on fire. A power surge could have easily happened and I cannot imagine the fire damage that could have occurred.

When I walked to the backyard I could see that one of my kids’ cozy coupe cars had been thrown from the grown high enough to land in our hedges! I could also see that the cable box exploded. When I was out doing my investigative work a truck came by and they said the cable was from Mediacom, which we no longer even use. Apparently, the lightning did mess up all Mediacom users in the neighborhood, but we actually have ATT now so, shockingly, we never lost power or even internet! From the trench in the yard, I could see where the wiring came up from the ground and was exposed after being struck.

We called the insurance company right away as we knew we’d have a pretty hefty claim to file with them. I am so thankful that we had just recently updated our homeowner’s policy. We have AWESOME coverage and they have been incredible and amazing. SO kind and helpful through the entire process. They did let us know that with lightning damage to house that they keep the claim open for a long time as it can take time to realize things that were damaged. That has for sure been the case with us as we slowly kept finding more and more things that were impacted by the lightning strike. (FYI we have Farmer’s if you’re looking for homeowners insurance).

The rule of thumb when it comes to lightning damage to a house is to inspect ANYTHING that is plugged in at the time of the strike. Especially since ours did hit the electrical box it is much more likely that electrical items within our home could be affected and damaged. Again, these items may work fine initially but over time may simply stop working due to that damage.

On the bright side it’s a big win for whoever buys our home when we move onto our new property! We’re going to have lots of nice updates for the future owners here 😉

Here are more views of the house and the damage to the tree. I had to pick up Spear from school and he still talks about this lightning storm. Apparently, at their school (which was just up the road from our house) they saw a BIG lightning bolt. I don’t know if it’s the same one that struck our house or not but he actually has a lot of fears about bad storms stemming from this same day even though he wasn’t home when it happened to our house!

When I went to put him down for a nap I did notice that the lightning had thrown his monitor off the shelf. It did still work even though it was plugged in!

When Zach got home he retreived the chunk of the tree from the road and we decided we had to keep it as a memento from this crazy experience. As he inspected the house himself we realized the cable trench went from the side of the yard, through the fence, then all around the back yard where it blew up the pavers by our firepit and that’s where it ended. I don’t know if it hit the metal edging Zach has and that’s why it finally stopped but you can see all the pavers as well as the exposed wiring at that point.

Zach has a storage shed just inside the fence and it did not have power at all and ALL of the tools and batteries he had plugged in were completely shot. We’ve had to replace all of that as well as have an electrician come to fix all the electrical issues with the storage shed. Again, just thankful it wasn’t our entire house!

Not only was this a crazy day, it also occurred during a CRAZY week. Zach and I were leaving in THREE DAYS for a 10 day trip to HAWAII. Leaving our kids for that long of a time period was stressful enough, having our house struck by lightning three days prior didn’t help that situation.

The kids got home from school and I tried to keep things as chill as I could about everything. I found (and focused on) the humor of it all with them. They helped me look for Lily and we were SO THANKFUL when we found her. She was scared and nervous so I wonder what she may have seen or even felt during the lightning strike.

Our initial damage was the windows as well as our garage door. It was totally shot and had to be completely replaced – not the actual door, just the motor part that opens and closes it. The garage is actually the opposite side of the house from where the lightning struck so it’s interesting to me that it was the first thing to have issues. The thermostat was also blown off the wall in our living room!

Zach had to go to his parent’s house to pick up his dad’s farm truck because his dad’s truck broke down 3 hours away from us and he called Zach to see if he’d come to help him tow it home in the farm truck. The crazy day only got crazier when Zach his truck got STUCK on their dirt road while on his way to get his dad’s farm truck. He had to walk the rest of the way, use the farm truck to unstuck his truck THEN drive the 3 hours to help his dad tow his truck back. Whew. Zach didn’t even get home until 12:30 am!

I took the kids around to show them the tree and damage and our neighbor (who owns the lot where the tree is located) had already cut up the tree and he actually hauled it all off – we never had to mess with any of it. So nice!

In further kindness, Zach’s cousin, Jake, came over and dropped off wood to put up over our master bedroom window to protect it from any water or damage until we can get it replaced. Then Scott, a friend from church, drove all the way over to our house in the dark and rainy weather to board up the window. It’s actually been over 6 months now and the windows are still on order! Thankfully Tess’s glass was only broken on the outside and her window has been fine while we wait. I took lots and lots of pictures to help with any insurance claims and, of course, for the memories 😉

When I went to tuck the girls in that night I noticed that Britt’s doll had also been blown off her shelf and was on the floor. Again, this was an interior wall! Super interesting how different parts of the house were impacted.

We woke up the next morning (2 days before our Hawaii trip) and our freezer was totally defrosted. The fridge in the kitchen was shot. So thankful for our reliable garage fridge and that our garage fridge and freezers were plugged into a surge protector. I spent the morning cleaning the garage fridge since we’d have to use it for a while and salvaging what I could from the kitchen. Sweet friends delivered treats and good for us which was such a blessing as I was basically having a breakdown at that point with this HUGE trip looming and all this house craziness going on.

Just a few months ago we finally invested in a nice bed and bought a tempurpedic mattress including a lift to allow the mattress to sit up. Sure enough, the lift portion didn’t work. It’s lots of little finds like this that happen when your house is struck by lightning. Our washer and dryer also quit on us and had to be replaced and our microwave was acting funky!

We were very fortunate a local vendor had easy access to a replacement fridge so we had that ordered and prepped to be delivered after our Hawaii trip. We had childcare set up for staying with some of the kids at our house during our trip and I hated leaving the house without a fridge in the kitchen and without knowing what other “surprises” they may find.

Right off the bat, literally the day we flew out, the sitter had all sorts of issues with the alarm system. Once we got home the company came out and had to fix some wiring problems that the lightning had caused.

Having lightning damage to your house is pretty sucky. And it was one of those crazy story type situations that seem to happen to us – and usually when they happen it’s right before a huge trip 😉 Be sure to watch the video in this post for all the details as well! And now we just pray that lightning doesn’t strike twice and that we’re in the clear for hopefully never having this experience again.

Lightning damage to house - when lightning strikes your house. What I learned when my house was struck by lightning.

My biggest advice that I learned through this experience:

  • Be sure to go over and update your homeowner’s policy on a regular basis!
  • Invest in a full-house surge protector (I plan to do this in our new house!)
  • Have tons of surge protectors on all electrical items that are kept plugged in.
  • Unplug items that you aren’t frequently using
  • Keep a fridge in the garage!
  • Have your garage door plugged into a surge protector (the guy who put in our new motor used this one)
  • Cut down ANY trees that have limbs hanging over, or close to, your house.
  • When you file the insurance claim be sure they keep it OPEN as it can take time to find all the things that may be damaged
  • Get an electrician to come to access the wiring throughout the home to make sure there is no damage!

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