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A study of the operation of lightning shows, strikes are intiated from a protrusion attached to the ground with the opposite potential of that in the cloud. The sharper the protruding object the more likely the lightning strike will occur. A lightning strike’s made up of nearly unlimited voltage and mega-amperes of current, certainly enough to melt sandy soils and disintegrate large trees.
Ground to cloud strikes, as near as several hundred feet, can totally destroy all kinds of electronic equipment (including audio gear, transmitters, ect.). The only sure fire way to eliminate the possibility is to “unplug” all such equipment from commercial AC service (the power company), unplug all the RF feedlines from transmitters/receivers and unplug any connections to wire telephone equipment. Make sure all cable ends are away from combustibles and other equipment. Lightning is looking for the easiest and shortest path to ground.
My expereince has been, radio stations DO NOT survive direct strikes. Something WILL get destroyed. I have replaced thousands of dollars in commercial broadcast equipment as a result of “non-direct” lightning strikes. Even months after the strike, I have had to replace and repair equipment weakened by an electrical storm. After a direct strike, you put out the fire and clean up the mess.
Disappative ground systems, large low-inductance conductors (copper strap), spark gaps, gas discharge tubes, lightning chokes, Static-Cat charge diffusers, MOV shunts and other methods are used widely to protect equipment that DOES NOT take a direct hit.
Bottom-line: You can take limited measures to prolong equipment life in lightning prone areas of the country. However, if your numbers up, its up. Ka-Boom! Put out the fire, clean up the mess and rebuild. Part 15 AM transmitters and antennas are only “cannon fodder” in the face of a lightning strike.
Marshall Johnson, Sr.
Rhema Radio – The Word In Worship