Lightning in Southern UK Strikes Several Homes

  • Feb 12, 2016

Some residents in southern UK awoke to a strange burning smell and collapsing ceilings as lightning struck several homes in the area of Langely Point, Eastbourne, East Sussex on 10 January 2016. Firefighters were called to the scene in the early hours of the morning to respond to damaged chimneys and ceilings and did not leave until all the homes were watertight.

The above video shows the total lightning moving across the region during the time of the storm. Notice how both in-cloud (purple) and cloud-to-ground (yellow) lightning made its way across the English Channel and onto the land of East Sussex. The cluster of cloud-to-ground strikes on Eastbourne around 2:30am-3:00am are most likely the strikes that damaged homes.

What Happens When Lightning Strikes a Home?

homelightningstrike

Photo: © Kyle Fougere, Environment Canada

Modern homes offer a plethora of paths for lightning to follow. When a cloud-to-ground lightning strike is really a cloud-to-home lightning strike, the electricity can travel through electric lines, pipes, phone lines, and even gutters (although it can go through a home without going through any of these conductors).

Lightning passing through a house will often take more than one path or jump from, for example, an electric line to a water pipe. This is called a side flash. Lightning current can damage a home in many different ways. In this case, lightning caused structural damage in the form of a shock wave, which knocked off the bricks of chimneys in more than a few homes. The biggest threat a lightning strike has on a home is fire damage, which thankfully did not happen in this case. Lightning can ignite fires in the wood of a roof or attic and it can also burn out and ignite wires.

While it is very rare, humans can be struck by lightning while within a home if they are in contact with the path the lightning uses to get to the ground.