We don’t all live in earthquake zones luckily, but most of our homes are exposed at least a few times each year to thunder and lightning.
Lightning damage arrives literally out of the blue, or at least out of dark thunder clouds. And it can be extensive and costly. My sister’s home in south London, England, was hit years ago. All the electrical appliances were ruined and had to be replaced after lengthy negotiations with the insurance company. My ex’s family home was hit many years ago when he was a teenager. The old lino flooring in the kitchen rose up and split, forming a sort of flower or fountain of sprouting lino several feet high. There was structural damage to the property too.
When I bought a house in a pine forest in southern France six years ago it didn’t occur to me to check whether it had a lightning conductor on the roof. (Actually I don’t even know if they have to go on the roof.) I knew the area fairly well and knew it experienced big thunder storms in the summer, very often at night, but I simply didn’t think about the threat from lightning. If I had, I had an idea anyway that tall trees are good lightning conductors. I’ve since been informed that that’s not necessarily true and that the tall pine trees around the house don’t give any protection against lightning.
I found that out three years ago anyway when the electricity and telephone pole beside the house got hit by lightning in a massive thunder storm. There was a huge bang and all the lights went out.
They stayed out for a day or two as the region had been badly hit and the teams of engineers from French electricity company EDF took a while to get round and reconnect all their affected customers.
When they arrived they were great. Five or six powerful-looking, handsome French guys with harnesses, ropes and power tools. (So-o happy to see you boys…) Watching them at work as they mended the power lines overhead was like going to the circus and a male beauty contest all at the same time.
However, much as I appreciated their skill and machismo, I don’t really want them to come back again if it means the house being struck by lightning a second time.
And yet, over the last three years I kind of went back to sleep again and forgot about getting a lightning conductor. Every time there’s a thunder storm I hide under the duvet and think everything will probably be all right in the morning.
Then the other night there was a storm which made me sit up and take notice again. A tooth-rattling, earth-shaking pyrotechnic ear-splitting thunder storm with huge terrifying bursts of lightning.
When I emerged from the duvet the next morning the electricity was still on. The house seemed to be in one piece and the cat was still alive. (He’d been under the duvet too, )
But not wanting to push my luck I had a word with the electrician. As well as the possible inconvenience of the electricity going off if the house is hit again, it occurred to me that my insurance company would probably politely reject a claim for lightning damage if the answer to the question “Avez-vous un lightning conductor Madame?” was “Non”.
Jean-Marc, the electrician, was a sound engineer in theatre until recently, then decided there was no money in it and left to retrain. He seems to know what he’s talking about when he talks about electrical appliances and stuff. The house definitely needs a lightning conductor, he said. I think the word he used to describe the type I need is “tri-phasic” – three phases. Seems to be related to the type of electricity panel I have on the wall?
So he’s going to buy one and come and install it. I have no idea what it’ll look like or where he’ll install it. I assume it will work efficiently and protect the house from further lightning strikes. It’ll be good to have that protection and security. And good to know the house insurance will be valid. But a bit of a shame, however, that the EDF power engineers won’t need to call again to fix lightning damaged power lines.