Last night's lightning strikes were both magnificent and scary and we housesellers have been seeing pics from it in news sources from all across the country today that are spectacular. The crazy lightning storm even knocked out the power at LAX at three terminals, struck a Delta plane heading to Seattle (forcing it to return to the airport), and the Santa Barbara News-Press reported that lightning bolts ignited tree fires and blew out a power converter there. The kind of lightning storm we had last night is exceedingly rare in Southern California so if you were able to catch it as it rumbled through the night, you certainly were treated to quite a show. 

Because there is still a chance of thunder and lightning through tomorrow night (though likely far less dramatic), the National Weather Service has issued some tips for people in the area on how to stay safe when the weather gets as extreme as it did last night. The first tip is probably the most obvious...stay inside and watch through your window as lightning can strike 10 or 12 miles away from a storm. Picnic shelters, dugouts and small buildings without plumbing or electricity are not safe and there are three main ways lightning enters structures: a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, or through the ground. Lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing or radio and television reception systems, and also through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

To stay safe you should stay off corded phones (cell and cordless phones are okay), and avoid contact with electrical equipment such as computers, TVs or cords. Avoid plumbing and do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes. Stay away from exterior windows and doors that might contain metal components leading from outside your home to the inside. Stay off balconies, porches and out of open garages or carports, and do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls. Remember to protect your pets, especially dogs as doghouses are not safe shelters and dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes. It is also important to know that lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike but do not unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be shocked or electrocuted.