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Published on Jun 29, 2016
During any second, there may be anywhere from 50 to 100 lightning strikes that occur somewhere on the Earth. As lightning passes through the air it can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun according to the National Weather Service.
When lightening makes contact with the ground a massive electrical discharge occurs. All of this energy can kill or injure people and cause serious damage to property. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute reports that as recently as 2014 there were almost 100,000 paid homeowners insurance claims for insured losses totaling almost ¾ of a billion dollars for lightning damage in the United States alone.
Much of the property damage from lightning strikes is associated with fires. In a typical year, U.S. Fire Departments respond to well over 20,000 fires that are started by lightning. When lightning causes a fire in a home or building there is typically obvious damage due to flames, but even a small fire that is quickly extinguished can cause extensive smoke damage. In addition to smoke odors, the corrosive effect of smoke residues can begin to cause extensive etching, corrosion and discoloration on indoor surfaces as time passes. Smoke residues can also harm or destroy sensitive electronics. These same electronic devices can also be damaged or destroyed by a lightning-caused power surge that could occur in the building’s electrical wiring system.
A lightning strike can also result in water damage if the building’s roof or siding is damaged due to a direct hit or from a tree that was hit and falls on a structure. Most wet building materials and belongings can support the growth of mold is as short as 48 hours if they remain wet. The presence of elevated levels of mold can cause indoor air quality issues and health concerns for building occupants as well as increase repair costs.
Older buildings that must undergo repairs due to a lightning strike could also present exposure hazards due to the possible presence of lead-based paints and asbestos-containing materials that are still commonly found in many residential and commercial buildings.
These are just a few things to know about lightning strikes, property damage and potential indoor environmental issues. To learn more about this or other property damage, indoor air quality, health and safety, occupational or environmental issues, please visit the websites shown below.