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Old 07-18-2003, 10:34 AM   #1
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Safe from Lightning in an Airstream?

We have recently been having storms here in Atlanta that are akin to science fiction, one lightning strike after another, and rolling thunder that just goes on and on.

This is what I copied from a weather website: ". . . in a car with a solid metal roof. . . . the current will usually pass harmlessly around you and enter the ground through the tires."

So I have been feeling relatively safe in my METAL Airstream that sits on TIRES. Am I right to feel safe? Or at least a little safe?

On the subject of weather, is an Airstream a safer RV to be in during a tornado than other (square) RVs? I heard from a couple who were coming through in their Airstream that some time ago at this large campground when a devastating tornado came through the only RVs not destroyed were a few Airstreams.

I live in my Airstream full-time. I have no place to go but the brick laundry room at the campground and this isn't very inviting since we seem to have lightning and rain every few days.

Thanks for any input.
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Old 07-18-2003, 10:53 AM   #2
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Earlier threads

Do a forum search on "lightning". There have been some long earlier threads on the subject.

As far as tornados go, better in a sturdy building than in a trailer. Airstreams are probably better then white boxes, but they have a high area to weight ratio.
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Old 07-18-2003, 11:46 AM   #3
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Don't depend on A/S shape

Back in the late 60s, Lubbock Tx suffered one of the worst document tornado clusters (7 on the ground at once) in the US history. The storm traveled right thru what was the A/S dealer at the time (Abbott Airstream). He also carried Holiday Rambler, but primarily A/S. All his A/Ss were diagonally parking along the sides of the lot but he had two HRs parked across the front, perpendicular to the path of the storms. The tornados picked up every single A/S and tossed them blocks away but those two HRs were sitting exactly where they had been parked...all the windows were blown out, but otherwise they were okay. This is not to say the HRs are safe or safer than A/S, but to point out that tornados are unpredicatable. As has been noted, in case of severe weather, get to the interior of a solid structure. There is simply no such thing as a safe trailer in a tornado.
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Old 07-18-2003, 04:01 PM   #4
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Skin effect

The previous posters are correct that the high winds of a major storm (t-storm, hurricane, tornado) make all RVs a questionable place to be.

However, should you be in the trailer while it is struck by lightning, you will probably be fine. A curious phenomenon called "skin effect" takes place in which the electrical energy passes over the surface of the metal box of a car or Airstream without reaching the interior. Do a web search on "skin effect" and you can read all about it.

This effect also works in cars (not convertibles!) It's not caused by the rubber tires as is commonly thought, but simply a matter of having a metal cage around you.

-- RL
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Old 07-18-2003, 05:15 PM   #5
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Most of the injuries and deaths in a tornado or from high straight winds do not come from being picked up and whisked away, but from broken glass and battering injuries from debris. Two 1/8" sheets of aluminum with fiberglass batting between are not sufficient to stop a 2x4, or any other debris travelling at 250 mph or greater from running clean through the trailer and anything inside it.

Seek proper shelter.

Roger
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Old 07-18-2003, 06:01 PM   #6
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You are probably as safe in your Airstream in a thunderstorm as you are in your car. Lightening should not be a problem unless you are under a tree that gets hit. You are right in that the metal all around makes for what is called a Faraday cage and electricity from a lightening strike should go around and not through. The damage it might do to your trailer is another issue, though. You might not even have a problem as the hitch jack may provide a ground path causing the rig to act like a lightening rod reducing static buildup that leads to lightening.

Also watch out for flash flooding in thunderstorms.

When you start talking tornadoes or hurricanes, all bets are off. There is no substitute for a shelter properly designed to protect from these conditions. The safety in your Airstream involves getting out of the area likely to be hit by that kind of storm.

But don't try to outrun a tornado. Spend your time taking shelter as you never can tell what the tornado might do.
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Old 07-18-2003, 07:06 PM   #7
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ben franklin....

always went to bed with a ground wire attached to his big toe......
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Old 07-19-2003, 04:14 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the reassurances about lightening. The lightening was so bad the other night that I was afraid to go outside and do something about my awning. I don't think it was slanted enough. It just v'd in the middle of the aluminum tube and caved in. I was terrified to go out to do anything about the water buildup. The lightening just kept coming in gigantic flashes and the thunder was very loud.

I read somewhere a notion that the skin on an Airstream is too thin to provide the Faraday cage protection. I don't remember if it was on one of the Airstream Forums posts or on the internet. I don't know if this idea "holds water."

Kathy
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Old 07-19-2003, 05:45 PM   #9
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Hi Kathy... are you staying in one place while living f/t in your Airstream or do you travel? If you are there all the time and the ground would support an underground storm shelter ...those are best. It puts you below the basic bottom surface (suction base) of a tornado. In Louisiana we went through Camille and Betsy. One of them came up the Mississippi River and tore up our small town of Gonzales, La. Our boat ended up 3 blocks over on our neighbors car! Nothing to mess with.

The lightning... stay OFF the phone! I produced a small documentary film on lightning some time back. Roughly 60 people a year die from lighting hitting a phone line while the person was chatting. This goes for hard line and cordless phones. We actually interviewed a woman who had been struck by lightning while standing over 10 feet from the phone base. The lightning hit the roof of her business, came to the base and jumped to her cordless phone. The doctors said it's amazing she lived.

If you can build a storm shelter that would be ideal. Failing that a hard shelter is good advice. Another excellent place to hide is in a culvert like under a driveway. You would probably get soaked and certainly dirty but if you tuck in there and hang on you will be relatively safe. Nothing is a sure bet with tornado's. If you have not seen the movie "Twister" in many ways it is pretty accurate as to what it feels like to be near one. They are beautiful, awesome and you know... very deadly.

Seek out good coverage ahead of time.. like practicing a fire drill. Believe me when you hear that "train rumble howl" sound it's too late to guess where to go. Be prepared waaaaayyyy in advance.

Here is a terrific link: http://www.nssa.cc/ "The National Storm Shelter Association" They can guide you to help for shelter building in your area. Also the link for FEMA's storm shelter info: http://www.fema.gov/fima/shplans/
Again... contact them for help in your area. They have a great deal of shelter info based on recent research. Meanwhile... enjoy your Airstream! It's a wonderful home.
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Old 07-19-2003, 07:10 PM   #10
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being lightning safe.....

great advice...stay off that phone.....because you can always petition the lord with prayer.......petition the lord with prayer......
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Old 07-19-2003, 08:02 PM   #11
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lightning safety

Jim says,
You CAN NOT petition the lord with prayer.
But seriously I believe one would not want to be in contact with any inside wall surface. These walls also being metal, and connected to the outer shell.
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Old 07-20-2003, 10:47 AM   #12
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Re: lightning safety

Quote:
Originally posted by silverhawk
But seriously I believe one would not want to be in contact with any inside wall surface. These walls also being metal, and connected to the outer shell.
While I personally wouldn't care to experiment to prove my theory, and honestly what I know about electricity is somewhat less than Ben Franklin knew before he flew his kite, I believe that as long as you're not grounded, you could be in contact with the wall during a strike and be OK.

It would, however, probably be very uncomfortable to be walking out the door with one foot on or near the ground and another on the trailer skin (either inner or outer) when the trailer got struck.

I have been told that's how birds can perch and squirrels can run on hi-voltage wires without getting torched is that they're not touching anything else that would cause them to ground themselves.

Roger
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Old 07-20-2003, 02:16 PM   #13
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seriously........

i do respect electricity....there is also a big difference between direct current and alternating current.....i also have better things to do then test theory and dielectrics...
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Old 07-20-2003, 03:09 PM   #14
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Shocking story

My dad was an industrial electrician up to his death in 1957. His hands were always black with grease and were callused and just like leather. One day, I walked into the bathroom in the electrical shop where he worked, reached for the light switch (no plate), and got knocked right on my butt.

Dad went in and felt all around the switch with no success. He finally licked his fingers and tried again; still no success, so he went back to work. I reached for the switch and ended up on my butt again.

Electricity is nasty stuff. If I have to work on anything hot, it is standing on an insulating mat with one hand in a pocket. No circuit, no shock.

Especially avoid having a path for elecricity across your chest, particularly 60 cycle AC. Europeans are smart to use 50 cycle which is a smidgeon safer, but certainly not safe.
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