So Your House Got Struck By Lightning, Now What?

Saturday July 20th, approximately 1:33pm, it was raining, a storm cell was going through like one has 100 times since I move to Tennessee.  I was alone and I heard couple good thunder boomers off in the distance, but I went on about my business.  Julie was out grocery shopping at the time.  I was standing in the basement, getting ready to do something, I can’t even recall what.  I decided to turn on the air conditioner.  That’s when it happened.  At the very moment I touched the Nest thermostat, the sound of the crack was like a gun going off in the next room.  The Nest blew off the wall, sparks came out of the backing plate and the electrical shock hit my hand and arm and made me take 3 steps back.  The string of profanity that ensued was something for the ages.  Then I paused.  I smelled it.  That distinct smell of burnt electronics everywhere.  Not only in the basement but the entire house.  I ran to the electrical room to look for fire and what I found was dead switch gear, or in some cases solid lights, or high speed fans.  In the other room where the Nuvo audio players were, nothing, dead silence.  It was just past 2:00pm when I called the electrician, Farmers Insurance, and Julie to tell them I believed lightning had struck the house.

What comes next is the long road to repair.  What I can tell you is we saw the two trees that the strike hit and also burnt from top to bottom.  They are the brown ones in the photo.  This is about 500′ from the house but only about 100′ or less from the main trench with the lines coming up to the house.

The electrician, whom I consider a good friend, made sure I checked for fires and explained to me, “Brother, this is going to be a long road”.  He explained I needed to go room to room starting to make lists of everything that got fried.  I never expected the list to get so long.  Below is just the tip of the iceberg and the most expensive things.

  • (4) Nuvo P3500 Players
  • (2) Ubiquiti 48 port PoE Switches
  • (1) Ubiquiti USG-Pro
  • (1) Ubiquity 16-port 10G switch
  • (12) Nuvo P10 wall controls
  • (16) PoE Cameras
  • The ENTIRE alarm control panel and some door switches
  • (4) Liftmaster 8500 Garage door openers
  • Cable Modem
  • SVR units
  • 9 Televisions
  • Optoma HD50 projector
  • Lutron Caseta Bridge

The pictures do not even show all the hardware that was damaged.  I mean the extent of the damage was beyond belief as we started to inventory and catalog everything starting the same day as the hit.  Sunday was an entire day more of the same cataloging.  We got Comcast out to fix the internet so we could get online and start doing research on damaged items.  The pile kept getting bigger as I tested and tossed things into the pile.  Eventually as the pile finished up and I got pictures for insurance I put them all in bins and moved it to the garage so I didn’t have to look at the mess.

Monday July 22nd, the Insurance Claims Agent Cody calls.  We have a nice long conversation where he confirmed lightning near the house, so we put that right to bed it was a valid claim.  He did a great job of explaining the process, how I needed to upload every personal property item to a web portal.  Thank heaven we got some basic internet back!  He asked me to load pictures, model numbers, and any receipts for purchases I needed to make to get things back online.  At that point I had a large cart at for the replacement network gear that I processed away for delivery.

On Wednesday the UPS truck gets emptied out on the front porch with the first load of new gear and the rebuild begins.  Luckily the Unifi controller was intact to replacing the gear and restoring the configuration was short work to get things back into a stable network state.  However as the days went on and the electrician started to test lines oddities cropped up.  Dead patch panel ports, new cameras would not come online, mounting changes from old cameras to new ones.   By Saturday the week after the event the alarm system was rebuilt and to date I have most fo the cameras back online.

This is just the start of a long road, we still have to start replacing room by room the TV’s, and many other electronics.  Basically our five year old house is now a renovation project.   As we fix two things, three more are broken.  It’s a process of elimination but once you find one thing dead, it all goes.  I even replaced every 6″ patch cord only to now have to punch down 48 ports again some night this week to replace the entire patch panel.

Today the first of what I hope to be many payments from the insurance company was deposited.  It covered the initial replacement gear so I am no longer out of pocket.  We also had to file a business claim on STK Promotions policy to fix a fried board on one of Julie’s industrial embroidery machines.  We filed that monday and the payment was sent today.  I can say I am impressed with the speed and efficiency of Farmers Insurance.  We all pay for insurance and when it counts you end up finding out how good your company is.  What I can also say is the TIME it takes to go through all this and document as well as in some cases reprogram things like the Caseta system is something you can’t account for.

Now comes the part of tracking replacement costs, receipts, and payments to hopefully net back to about a zero dollar cost.  That will all be done by Quicken reports and creative category tracking to see how the chips fall.  I’ve also subscribed to the Sortly App so as we rebuild we will do a FULL home inventory so if this or something worse ever happens again we have it all on file.  I suggest you do the same.

We’ve given up trying to figure out how so much damage was done.  Before you ask, yes the house was grounded, I had whole home surge protectors in both 200amp panels, Tripp Lite UPS units on the major gear, and shit still fried.  I even have a case open with Tripp Lite that may cover the deductible or even some fo the depreciation offsets.  At the end of the day lightning is powerful and unpredictable that’s what I have learned.  The statements I have heard “That should not have happened” don’t mean squat because it did happen.  We are looking to see if there is anything else we can add to prevent such a large amount of damage again, but there is not much else you can do.  Even my electrician said his house has been hit twice.  I’m exhausted from all the work but it’s coming along.  Many people have offered help and at some point when it comes to hanging TVs or other things I may take them up on it.

All I can say is imagine if I wasn’t home and came home to the mess not knowing what happened.  Better yet what if Julie came home no garage doors, power on and me passed out on the floor.  I mean the other possibilities of outcomes are just mind boggling.

About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.

One comment

  1. Chris,

    My grandparents home was struck in rural Alabama in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, within hours everything except the brick fireplace was turned to ash. All family memories, items of sentimental value, were gone. By the grace of God, their lives were spared as they were picking my sister and I up from BHM early in the morning. What ensued after was heartbreaking, the inventory of “stuff” when all they wanted to do is mourn the loss of their dream home they had build upon retirement.

    Glad to hear you and those you love are ok. ????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *