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Old 06-01-2016, 09:44 PM   #1
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Silly storm worry

We are in process of selling our home and acreage and will live in our trailer for a while as we decide what to do next. Our trailer has been stored for last 8 years in an RV garage next to our home. So, I never worry about it during storms, and we've been very lucky over the years to somehow avoid big storms while camping.

For some reason my only concern about this next phase is how we should handle approaching storms. We live in an area that sees some pretty intense thunder storms with the lightning strikes that go with them. We're lucky in that we usually have pretty good advance notice that a storm is headed our way. Some friends have said that - absent a tree coming down on us - the trailer is a pretty safe place to be. Others say head for the nearest "real" building we can find and ride it out.

I'm just curious - what do you full timers do at the threat of bad weather that involves lightning?





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Old 06-01-2016, 10:37 PM   #2
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My concern would be wind. Lightning is an issue, but wind from a thunderstorm downburst could roll an AS.

Properly grounded, a full metal trailer is probably an ok place to be with lightning. It acts like a Faraday Cage, essentially.


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Old 06-02-2016, 01:03 AM   #3
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For some reason my only concern about this next phase is how we should handle approaching storms. We live in an area that sees some pretty intense thunder storms with the lightning strikes that go with them. We're lucky in that we usually have pretty good advance notice that a storm is headed our way. Some friends have said that - absent a tree coming down on us - the trailer is a pretty safe place to be. Others say head for the nearest "real" building we can find and ride it out.

I'm just curious - what do you full timers do at the threat of bad weather that involves lightning?
Full-timers are not the only ones who have to be concerned with lightning. Anybody can be camping when a thunderstorm pops up.

An Airstream makes an excellent Faraday cage, so the only things to be concerned about are: (1) grounding the trailer to earth, which is easy enough considering how many metal points of contact you have with the ground— tongue jack, stabilizers, safety chains if you let them dangle; and (2) protecting your circuits, which is best accomplished by unplugging your shore power before the storm hits. This provides even better protection than a surge protector, but for those who don't want to run outside to unplug, a surge protector is usually the go-to solution. If you unplug, unplug both ends of the cord.

As for wind, an Airstream can easily withstand winds up to about 70 mph from the front or rear, because that's no different from the wind loading when you're traveling down the highway. And even for winds from the side, you'd have to get major uplift in order to tip the trailer over, which is difficult to accomplish since Airstreams sit so low to the ground compared to other trailers. Winds that would flip a 5th wheel will only rock an Airstream. As long as your awnings are all taken in before the storm, you're unlikely to flip an Airstream in anything less than a tornado or hurricane.

But heading for a "real" building is an excellent idea if your thunderstorms are accompanied by tornado watches or warnings. I've seen campgrounds hit by tornadoes (one just 20 miles from where I live) and not a single vehicle— car, truck, trailer, or motorhome— survived unscathed.
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Old 06-02-2016, 02:23 AM   #4
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Silly storm worry

True. Tornado or hurricane can be serious bad news.

I've also seen some collapsing thunderstorm downburst straight line winds hit very high velocities-enough to down trees in Alabama.

Weather radio, an abundance of caution, and a sturdy shelter to go to should be part of the plan.

Worrying about storms is not silly. Not taking precautions can be deadly.


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Old 06-02-2016, 04:42 AM   #5
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Although better than nothing, a metal vehicle, Airstream or otherwise is not a perfect Faraday cage. You will still get secondary transient discharges throughout the vehicle during a hit. It wont be like the direct hit, but it is still dangerous.
If there is no other shelter available, wait out a storm sitting low in the center of the vehicle and dont touch anything. Dont use the water or electrical devices.

I maintain a 4 million volt particle accelerator at work and when we get a spark out, sometimes the parts inside the stainless steel dome show signs of spark damage. Plastic parts explode, wiring gets fried and so on. 4 million volts is nothing compared to a bolt of lightning.
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Old 06-03-2016, 10:30 AM   #6
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Protag,

I'm curious about the points of contact issue. Many campgrounds we've stayed in have required us to use pads under our tongue jack and stabilizers to protect their site pads. So, we use our 2 inch thick, yellow plastic leveling blocks we bought at camping world. Is that enough of a block to break this contact you're talking about? We do use a surge protector, and if present at the time the storm hits will unplug (as you suggest, both ends), and our chains do dangle.
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Old 06-03-2016, 10:42 AM   #7
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So, we use our 2 inch thick, yellow plastic leveling blocks we bought at camping world. Is that enough of a block to break this contact you're talking about?
Probably.

If you really want to make sure your trailer is grounded for lightning strikes— and you're in a campground that has municipal water running through metal pipe— use a set of automotive jumper cables to connect from the trailer frame to the pipe where it comes out of the ground. Connect both cables.
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:27 AM   #8
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Will those parks let you use a metal tongue jack "foot" or a flat metal plate under the jack instead of the plastic? They get protection for their pavement, and you restore the electrical ground in case of lightning.
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:57 AM   #9
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I've had close lightening strikes in Flagstaff during monsoon season, it would pop my GFI breaker and shut off the 120ac. Wind hasn't been an issue yet, but I never leave the awning out.
I don't use the plastic pads unless I need a hight adjustment on leverage on the stab jacks.
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:14 PM   #10
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I do not think it necessary to "ground" the vehicle/airstream to enjoy the safety of a faraday cage effect. Aircraft certainly are not grounded and yet it is this Faraday effect which protects passengers and interior/avionics.
Automobiles are well-known for the faraday effect in lightning and sit on rubber tires.
In any event, stabilizer jacks, tongue jacks, safety chains, etc. sitting on pavement is certainly not a good electrical grounding method, and if plugged into campground electricity the equipment ground of the various appliances, connected as they are to the Airstream body/frame, will almost certainly blow-out if struck by lightning. Completely disconnecting from electrical sources and removing the supply cord from the trailer would be the best solution.
DW and I just sat-out/slept (sorta) thru a terrific thunder and wind storm two weekends ago on Mustang Island with 60-70+ mph gusts and, while the trailer rocked pretty good (stabilizers were not deployed and I wasn't going out to deploy them) it was no worse than a rough-ride down a road. (But I was still concerned, I admit. We were watching the weather broadcast on Corpus Christi TV and it was ALL RED all around!... and I lowered the TV antenna to keep it from being blown off.)
I hope not to have to do it again for sure, but what was the alternative? I sure wasn't going to get on the road!
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Old 06-14-2016, 07:57 AM   #11
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We've been fultiming a few years now, our first year in Kansas and the following In Arizona. ( High winds & Monsoons season) The Airstream handles big storms pretty good. It can get a bit loud inside during a good downpour, and you can expect a bit of trailer"sway" starting with winds as low as 20 mph. Worrying about things like lightning strikes, falling trees & odd occurrences like that should be the last thing to worry about...... the real stress bomb? HAIL !! This is the one weather phenomenon that haunts me. Anything over "pea" size can do some real damage. If I were out traveling and there was a chance of a band of hail in the forecast, I'd seriously be looking for someplace with some kind of cover to help ward off direct contact.( We usually looked for overhanging trees we could "hide" under for a few hours, or a bridge overpass)
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Old 06-14-2016, 08:03 AM   #12
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I do not think it necessary to "ground" the vehicle/airstream to enjoy the safety of a faraday cage effect. Aircraft certainly are not grounded and yet it is this Faraday effect which protects passengers and interior/avionics.
Lightning strikes are due to a buildup of a static charge on the vehicle or trailer in question. An un-grounded trailer or vehicle can certainly survive a lightning strike. But grounding ensures that the trailer is at the same electrical potential as everything around it, preventing the buildup of a static charge in the first place and reducing the chance of even having a lightning strike.
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Old 06-14-2016, 08:27 AM   #13
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For what it is worth for this discussion the first thing the ground crew does when parking an aircraft is to attach grounding cables. I have been near and in military aircraft when taking a direct hit by lightening in the air and on the ground. No matter how extensive the precautions serious damage is almost always done to the frame and electronics. I have had one friend killed and two injured by aircraft strikes. The friend killed was standing on the ramp under the wing when the bird took a direct strike. Fortunetly the odds of taking a direct strike are slim. Good luck and be careful out there.
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Old 06-14-2016, 02:10 PM   #14
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Aircraft are electrically grounded when parked in order to equalize the potential between the aircraft and the re-fueling truck (which is also grounded both to the surface of the aircraft AND the earth) to avoid static sparks when refueling.
Aircraft have "static wicks" installed on trailing edges to dissipate static which builds during flight, but the potential for accident/injury can exist once parked unless grounded. The practice has nothing to do with lightning hazards.

Standing near/beneath ANY solitary object during a thunderstorm is hazardous due to lightning strikes, especially in wide-open spaces like airport ramps and fields. The aircraft was likely an attractant to the lightning, whether grounded or not. A person INSIDE the aircraft would have been well protected.

Yes, aircraft struck by lightning usually suffer damage in the form of perforations, avionics damage, spalling-damage of bearings/bushings, and also magnetizing of crankshafts, rotating-shafts (turbines, etc.) and chipped-propeller blades. I've personally been flying aircraft which have been so damaged,... but everyone inside was completely uninjured, some of my pax were unaware until informed.
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