STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

Trip Start Nov 19, 2007
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Where I stayed
DODGE TOWN parking lot

Flag of United States  , South Dakota
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August 3, 2010

BOOOOOOOMMMMM!     The deafening explosion came from the roof.  It was the loudest noise I've ever heard.  Jodie was working at her computer, sitting on the couch and I was driving down I-90 at 55 MPH.  Sparks and flaming insulation were flying down from the ceiling and smoke was filling the air. It was like sitting under exploding fireworks.  What just happened?  Are you okay?  My right ear was painfully throbbing and ringing.  Did your computer explode?  What happened?

I quickly pulled off the road and onto the shoulder. We opened the windows and doors to let fresh air in and clear the black and gray noxious smoke out.  Both of us were coughing and looking to see if anything was on fire.  A large plastic panel had been blown off the ceiling, breaking free of all 12 screws before it struck Jodie.  A bruise was forming on her forehead.  One of the pieces of flaming insulation had landed on the seat and started a fire.  Luckily (in one way) she was in the back and able to put it out and stop it from spreading.  Small pieces of plastic and burned foil insulation covering were all around us on the floor.

We reached for each other and held on tightly, relieved that we were okay.  We were in shock,  slightly shaking and very confused. What had just happened?  My ear was pounding and Jodie was rubbing her forehead.  What could have exploded on the roof?  Could we have been hit by lightning?  We had both always been told that lightning doesn't strike vehicles because the rubber tires insulate them.

Our ceiling was burned and exploded outward (toward us) which reminded me of the movie Alien, when the alien creature broke its way out of its victim's chest.  Electrical wire was hanging down, smoke was still hanging in the air and our sunroof was broken and stained with black smoke residue. The 12 screws that held the now burned plastic panel laying on the floor, were all still in the ceiling with rings of plastic still hanging there.  What powerful force to blast that panel free!  I climbed up on the backs of the cab seats and stuck my head out of the sunroof hole.  There it was...a back burn mark where the lightning had hit the radio antenna.  The once 14" long rubber coated antenna now looked like a burned and melted piece of crayon.  We had been hit by lightning!

20 minutes before it all happened, we had driven into a violent thunder and lightning storm on our way out of South Dakota.  The wind and rain had been so intense that we pulled off I-90 to wait it out. Lightning was striking in the distance in a way we had never seen.  The bolts seemed to be repeating themselves 5 or 6 times in rapid succession wherever they hit.  The storm was biblical. There were 15 or more cars, trucks and motorcycles on the shoulder with us...nobody could see the road ahead.  It was clearing up when we took off and the sky was no longer black  It was just a dark gray with an average amount of rain, with no visible lightning when we were struck.

I tried to start the engine, but nothing doing.  I jumped on the computer and sent a message to the on line motorhome groups we belong to asking for advice.  While waiting for replies I checked the fuses, but they were all fine.  Answers starting coming in from the group wizards.  Byron, one of the most knowledgeable of the contributors, made some suggestions, but no luck there either.  We were dead on the road for the first time in almost 3 years of full-timing.

I called the Good Sam tow service and GMAC Insurance. After being on the phone 4 or 5 times with Good Sam, they said we weren't covered for acts of God (lightning strikes) and declined to get us towed.  A long discussion finally made them come around regardless of their exclusion in the policy. The nearest dealer was 60 miles away so we would be towed back from where we had just left and the dealer said it would be 3 days before they could see us.

While waiting for the tow truck I sent out an email to our RV friends to tell them what happened.  Linda and Jerry from Flagler Beach, FL were 2 of the people to get the email.  The last time we saw them was in May and Jerry was all excited about winning a big Harley Davidson contest.  The prize was an all expenses paid trip to the 70th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.  But I am getting ahead of myself and that story will follow later.

About 1/2 an hour passed before anyone stopped.  The man who pulled up asked if we needed help and then asked to come in and take pictures of the "hit".  He had never heard of a moving RV being hit by lightning.  A little while longer, a tow truck pulled up and Clint from C.C. Towing - www.cctows.com - came over to see if we needed help. He was not an authorized Good Sam contractor, but wanted to help anyway. He too had never heard of such a thing and also wanted to take pictures.  After putting out orange cones and flashers, Clint called a friend that is responsible for all of the FedEx Sprinter vans in S.D. to see if he could help. His suggestion of disconnecting the battery to reboot the computer didn't work, but he did tell us that the only qualified mechanic within 600 miles was at the Dodge dealership in Rapid City.  At least we were being towed to the best local place possible.  Clint hung out for a while longer and then he got an emergency call and had to leave.

45 minutes later, Drew, from Olson Towing - www.olsontowinginc.com - , showed up with a big flatbed.  He too had never heard of such a thing, but he did know about the insane hail that this area gets.  His cab window was all cracked from a softball sized piece of hail hitting it the week before.  Drew was terrific. It took every piece of wood he had to block up the wheels in order to load Crazy Fish.  He drove us back to Rapid City and skillfully avoided the low wires and street lights we would have hit otherwise.  He was concerned about unloading us and bottoming out our kayak and bike rack, so he called ahead to have Danny, another Olson tow truck driver, meet us with more blocks.

Between Drew and Danny, they unloaded Crazy Fish without any problem.  They told us where not to stay in town and which places were the best for car rentals.  We all said goodbye and Drew told us to call him if we needed anything.

We walked to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and kept repeating...."I can't believe we were hit by lightning".  After dinner we went back to Crazyfish and watched a movie.  Luckily, most of our coach electrical systems were still working.  We tried to pop out the slide extension, but our battery was too drained from 6 hours of flashers to fully extend.  I'd have to deal with manually retracting it in the morning.

And so our saga of the lightning strike had begun.


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Comments

Barbara Larson on

Soo grateful you're both safe..and charmed.. Hug yourselves for Doug and me. A great story for the Grands!!

deb and Laura on

Geez. we are sp glad that you too are alright! I always believed that being in an auto or RV on rubber made it less likely to be struck by lightening as well. You two are so lucky! Hug each other for us!

Love, D and L

Bob Davis on

That is unbelievable. Thankfully you are okay.

Val in VA on

Oh my gosh! Your RV Life Adventure is a bit more than most of us would want to experience. So glad you're both okay.

Pat/Sue on

The folks in the plains states are great. We had some great service outside Kearney, NE. when our Nav blew 2 tires. Glad your OK. Let us know if GMAC finally pays for towing. We have them right now.

Ralph Drake on

Hi I am from the Pacific Northwest we get rain but nothing like they do in the Midwest. We spent July in the Dakota's, when it rains there, it don't fool around. Glad you are OK.

John Baumgartner on

What an adventure. Very thankful to hear you are both OK. It's good you have pictures because I can hear people refusing to believe such a thing could happen. I'm glad to hear that people stopped to help. Friendly passers-by are more help than a profit-minded insurance company any old day.

bduffy
bduffy on

glad you are ok and the lighting didn't use the propane tank to exit ,if gmac don't pay i would sue that god guy.

Barbara Roberts on

Hey - I'll let the gang know. Most important is that you two are okay. So sorry you're lovely home on wheels is damaged. I hope it gets fixed up for you soon.

Dave K on

WOW!!
what do I say, I am glad you are both safe that is the only thing the matters. I think this or any break down along the road is the biggest concern when you are at the hands of other people and the insurance policies we purchase, but it is all part of the open road adventure. I hope you are / were able to get all of the necessary repairs made. Please let us know if we can do anything for you.
I am truley gald you are safe!!
Safe motoring,

DK

gabyj
gabyj on

holy moly! thank god you are ok. how bizzare.
we know you like to be pioneers but could you keep it to a safer novelty-- we would like to see you alive.
love, Gaby and Robert (and Emily and Lauren)

Mercury and Carlee on

Great one guys! Very exciting entry- cool to see the pictures to match the story we've gotten! Dang... really quite amazing! And just he start of the whole show following this natural Strike of intensity!

DAVE PESINO on

THIS IS THE MOST "SHOCKING "STORY IN YOUR 3 YEARS ON THE ROAD!HOPE TO SEE YOU AND YOUR GANG IN FLA. THIS WINTER.WE ARE CURRENTLY CAMPING IN DAGGETT LAKE PARK-NEAR WARRENSBURG,N.Y.MISS YOU BOTH.1DAAT!!!DAVNDEE

Olivia and Dick on

So glad you are both all right...what an experience...thank you for sharing ....keep safe for all of us....love,Olivia

jackie greaves (Tony`s wife ) on

WOWWWW !
Your guardian angles were working overtime that day !
Many people don`t get to tell their tales .
You are both very lucky !!!

Susan Leoni on

Man, do you t hink God is trying to tell you something????????

Reed von Gal on

I just got your lates entry and after reading it when back to the big event. I had heard the "lightning had hit your antena" from (I think ZZ) and didn't realize it was so intense or even put you out of commission. Well that was somthing and you sure documented the event and aftermath. I feel I was there with you, or should have been, sharing the pasin and frusration. Sounds like things are back on track but not without some scars.

I am in China now for anther 5 days. Bin in a city called Yichang which is actually quite beautiful with mountains around it and the Yansi river going through but I hadent't noticed the beauty when I was here before because of weather which is pleasent now.

Thinking of you guys and excited to hear when the big day comes for Merc and Carlie.

Love
Reed

Ray Parzych on

Thank God neither one of you was seriously hurt.
Noticing the lightening exit point (next to the fuel filler) makes me thankful for the low volatility of diesel fuel.

Kenneth foster on

im glad to see my towing company take care of you folks and glad yall are safe

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