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Old 05-07-2008, 12:52 PM   #1
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Thunderstorms and Airstreams

I originally thought of this question one night during a rather terrific thunderstorm in the Highland lakes area of Central Tx.
I know my tow vehicle is grounded by the four wheels and no metal to ground contact BUT what about a parked Air Stream with the tongue jack and wheel in place and four metal jacks supporting the front and rear areas of the trailer? We were also hooked up to water and electric at the time. To me this spelled disaster if we should take a lightening strike.

So, the question is: How safe are you in a tin can during an electrical storm??
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:03 PM   #2
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Can you say Antenna?

Odds are the trees around you are more likely to take the hit being higher but I would not want to park on a bald hilltop with the TV antenna up.

Just don't hang on to the skin of the trailer during the storm.

My house was hit years ago and the bolt came in through the corner of the livingroom, 3 pieces of wire lath converged at the ceiling, and rolled across the floor between my wife and I. I left a 3 in dia. whole in the ceiling, ran the garage door up, and blow out one channel of the Hi Fi amp. We felt nothing.
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:08 PM   #3
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There is another thread on this topic

There were a few different points of view. I was nearby when lightning struck a tree near my friends camper. The lightning went underground and came up under her matt and arched between her metal lawnchairs, fried her electrical system and sent Saint Elmos Fire along some speaker cables and made the soundmans hair stand on end. No branches landed on her or her camper.
You do the math, I don't want to be under trees or out in the open during a thunderstorm.
But to answer your question, the jury is out as to whether an Airstream is safer than an SOB trailer.
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:14 PM   #4
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Here are some threads on the subject:

Don't forget about wind and trees overhead.

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Old 05-07-2008, 02:12 PM   #5
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While at a rally a few years ago we had a very strong thunderstorm pass. Aftere the light show an old timer Airstreamer came over and pointed out that our AS was not properly setup for surviving such a storm. I had leveling blocks under the front jack and under all four stabalizing legs. What we needed was a grounding cable from the frame into a stake in the ground. Now we always make sure we have at least two of the legs into the dirt when weather is predicted. Many years ago I had a new Loran unit and PC set up in our sail boat. We had the system "professionaly" installed along with a new sea antena. Some time afterwards while docked at the marina a big storm passed and sure enough the "Medalist" was struck. The charge went down the antena lead toasted every single wire in the boat ($6,500 in wiring alone) and to make things worse through the shore line connection and down the dock!
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Old 05-07-2008, 05:51 PM   #6
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Any earth grounding you may or may not use while camping is not going to make a whit of difference to a lightning bolt.

Your safety comes from the fact that an electrical currents will flow on the outside of your Airstream. Stay inside and don't stick your hand out the window to see how wet things are getting.

The major hazard to RV's in storms comes from falling or blowing debris.

If you have any electrical or electronic equipment you value, unplug it from everything until after the storm.
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Old 05-07-2008, 07:01 PM   #7
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Great thread responses Thank you !! , I don't feel much safer about being in my Air Stream during a electical storm now, but I understand it a whole lot better. LOL I think I did the right thing at the time by vacating the Air Stream. Next time I will park along side some of those huge Motor Homes and hope I am the lowest thing in the park.
Before I posted the original note I did a search and didn't find a thing about it anywhere else. Thanks Canoestream for your inputs.
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:08 PM   #8
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I know this is an older thread, but my wife and I have a beautiful new 2014 23' Flying Cloud that has only been out to play twice in the last two months. Living in Montana, this spring has been full of large hail days........can't imagine how I'd freak out to see the beauty beat up by large hail stones........
We may camp in the garage this weekend, forecast is for "Severe Storms, Large Hail"!
At some point, I guess I'll just have to go for it...............
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:51 PM   #9
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We had some cosmetic hail damage to our trailer in April. We just received a check from our insurance company but frankly I am more concerned that replacing roof and front panels may result in problems like leaks or worse...thinking of living with the dents. Thoughts?

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Old 05-28-2014, 08:06 PM   #10
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We have super storms where I live- lightning capital of the world. That said, I have seen many lighting strikes. There is so much randomized action that it would be difficult to say what COULD happen. The main thing is to not be out in the open. Most SOB brands are also made with aluminum sheets and aluminum frames so they would most likely be equivalent in conductivity. The path of least resistance is the metal framework so that would actually protect you. Years ago there was a story in the local paper about a family traveling across alligator alley (Naples to Fort Lauderdale). Their car was struck by lightning and it blew out all 4 tires. People think that tires protect but consider that the charge jumps thousands of feet, what's a few inches? The main thing is that the frame would protect you as it does in a car. The biggest danger would be large branches and other big tree parts smashing the trailer.

Annie, as far as damage goes, make sure your seams are sealed and there are no missing rivets. A dent doesn't leak but a damaged seam not sealed can leak. You can have panels replaced but I would suggest extensive replacement be done at the factory. If it is a panel or two then a dealer with experience and metal training from Airstream.You could always name the trailer "dimples" I have a damaged scratch spot from the original owner next to the door. I am trying to work up something creative.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:20 PM   #11
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A few years ago there was an incident in a field in Colorado. Lightning struck a tree near where several migrant workers were standing, the foreman was in an airstream beside the tree. Three workers were killed, two severely burned and brain damaged. The foreman in the airstream was unharmed and never even felt a shock. However the blast did cause a small fire and the sound deafened those near the strike.
The moral of the story is you are safer in an Airstream than outside the Airstream. Also never gather near a tree in a lightning storm.
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Old 05-28-2014, 10:19 PM   #12
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IMO, a person is probably safer in a lightning storm in an Airstream than in 90% of houses.
The fact that I am opinionated does not presuppose that I am wrong......

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