When It Rains It Pours

July 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

When it rains, it pours, as they say and if you’re particularly unlucky, the lightning strikes — as it did at our house on July 11th.

Sarah and I were in the living room that Friday evening as a hard rain and thunder rolled overhead.  I believe she was playing with the baby and I was doing something unimportant on the iPad when this spectacular crash interrupted our activities.  The transformer on the pole at the street erupted into a shower of sparks.  The lights in the house went off briefly, followed by the beeping sounds of multiple battery Back-UPS located around the house warning us of a power outage.

And then the smoke alarm sounded…

We’re not certain where the lighting struck the house — I suspect it was out at the street fairly close to our home given fireworks display from the transformer out there.  I decided to step outside and look at the roof just in case and although it was raining some of the hardest we’ve seen this summer, I wanted to be sure.

Satisfied we didn’t need to evacuate, I returned to the house as the smoke alarm continued to alarm.  Content we weren’t in any immediate danger, I had to remove the battery from the smoke alarm to stop the noise.  (It’s worth noting that the noise it was making was NOT an actual alarm as if there were a fire but a steady beeping noise.  It would have audibly said “FIRE FIRE FIRE” in-between alarming had there been smoke.)  Unsatisfied that the house was not on fire (despite a lack of evidence such as smoke), Sarah climbed up in the attic to assuage her fears.

Immediately I knew there were some electronics that were damaged.  It wouldn’t be until nearly a week later that I’d realize just how damaged everything was.

Right away I knew we had lot some things, namely because our Internet access was out.  I didn’t think we’d have enough to bother making an insurance claim but as I thoroughly inspected anything and everything with a power cord connected to a socket, the items started stacking up.  Finally tally puts us somewhere between $4500-$5000 worth of damage.

We lost:

  1. Our fancy water ionizer
    Despite finding that the fuse was blown, it still failed to operate even after replacing it.  After drinking (a lot) of tap water over the last week, I’m actually missing this unit.  We won’t be able to replace it fast enough to suit Sarah.
  2. My MacBook Pro
    I knew right away that the power brick for my MBP was toast but since my laptop powered on, I was (temporarily) relieved that nothing was wrong with it.  However, I didn’t use it much last week until later in the week and I discovered there were multiple issues with it.  All of which I’m assuming won’t (or can’t) be repaired.  The Ethernet port is toast.  The SDHC slot won’t read any memory cards.  The speakers or headphone jack don’t work.  It runs on the warm side and the fan is continuously on all the time.  The trackpad and mouse had been acting a little wonky, but I’m not sure if that’s related or not.  While not a total loss, it’s a real bummer since I frequently use these things.  I HOPE HOPE HOPE the insurance company will do me right on this one.
  3. Raspberry Pi
    The Ethernet port in the RPi that was serving as our media box is toast.  It still plays video but with an annoying hum or popping sound in the background now.
  4. My 1U Rack-mount Server
    This server had reliably served me as my Internet gateway and firewall for many years until it met it’s demise at the hands of this lightning strike.  Between the power supply and the motherboard in it, it’s toast.  I’m uncertain if it can be repaired but my experience as a PC Technician has shown me that once a computer takes a lightning strike (of ANY severity–or not), then all bets are off.  Even if you “fix” it, you’ll always have those little electrical gremlins running around causing havoc whenever they feel like it.  I’m nearly done rebuilding the firewall in a different case using spare parts around the house but unfortunately because they’re using different network interfaces, I couldn’t import a recent backup I had made.  That sucks.
  5. My 24-port Cisco Switch
    Along with my firewall my once-trusty switch is toast.  Actually, about a third of the ports are toast.  Any port that was connected to an active computer is toast.  So the first 8 ports are pretty much a gonner.  While testing it, I plugged a device into a higher port and the switch immediately rebooted.  I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to do that.
  6. My Belkin 4-port USB Hub
    If you’ve got a lot of USB devices and a laptop with only 2 USB ports, then you know how annoying it is to play round-robin with your USB devices as you need them.
  7. Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector
    If you put a battery in it, it continuously alarms.  I’m pretty sure that means it’s broken.  We have three in the house and they’re all hard-wired into the electrical system and to each other (so if one alarms they all do).  I had a spare that I plugged up in it’s place and while it tested okay, it didn’t set the other one off.  I still need to troubleshoot them a bit more before I’m confident the remaining two work and don’t need to be replaced.

So that wraps up most of the suckage from the last week.  Despite being a homeowner for nearly 10 years, I’ve never had the occasion to make a claim.  I hope this first experience won’t be as dreadful as I fear it might be. :/

Aaron Melton


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