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Latarski: Struck by Lightning
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Consider this a public service announcement.

It's the kind of thing you hear about and shake your head because it always happens to someone else. It was a flash-boom explosion that rattled the house and sent a blue steak firing across the room followed by a smell of ozone.

When lightning struck the side of my house, it burned the telephone line in half in three places and fried a variety of appliances. It was the first time I'd ever experienced a lightning strike on my house or even in a house where I happened to be sitting. On the fortunate side no one was hurt and there was no fire.

Still, the suddenness of such acts can be numbing. One minute a storm is an inconvenience and annoyance and the next it has done major, and sometimes, fatal damage.

In many ways lightning is like a tornado in that it is inexplicable in doing damage. Just as a tornado will destroy a building on one corner while not touching one across the street, lightning is inconsistent in what it damages.

The dishwasher was fried while the garbage disposal a few inches away was left unscathed; the toaster oven was barbecued while an electric can opener plugged into the same outlet was unharmed and one computer (the new one of course) was cooked while another a few feet away (ancient when even compared to the pyramids) is still plugging along.

There was also some slight damage to the carpet as a result of Sadee, the high-strung Yorkshire Terrorist who runs the house, being terrified after the strike and having a small accident. I could not get mad at her because I was pretty close to having one myself.

We all know the rules when it comes to lightning, but we tend to think, what are the odds of an honest to goodness lightning strike hitting me? And what are the chances of it hitting my house? I'm here to tell you, with the thunderstorms we've been having, the chances may very well be better than you may realize. Lightning is serious stuff and something to not be trifled with even if the odds are on your side. But if you are a victim chances are you will have one of three outcomes: bad, really bad and really really bad.

And the age-old warnings we have grown up with should not be ignored. You don't stand in front of a stainless steel sink at the kitchen window washing collard greens during a thunderstorm. Get out of the pool and off the phone.

And if you happen to be playing with one of those idiots who sees the storm gathering off in the distance and says, "Let's finish this hole before we go in," tell the guy to go eat a fruitcake and get the heck out of there.

You don't have to be standing directly under the storm. Lightning, which in case no one has mentioned, can go sideways and it moves reeeeeeeeeeal fast - hence the name lightning. I've always said if lightning is going to get me on the golf course, it will be with the first bolt because if I see one I'm gone, even if I have a two inch putt for an eagle.

After a strike on your home, you have to go around and check on practically everything in your house. If an appliance seems to be working but you notice whiffs of smoke coming from it, you might want to consider replacing the device.

One of the most irritating circumstances surrounding the entire incident is not just the damage but trying to arrange for the various people who need to come in and check devices, make repairs or tell you something needs to be replaced. After fighting with a forest of phone trees you end up with a yellow tablet full of dates and times, with the real understanding that almost none of them will arrive when they say they will.

If you get lucky enough to talk to a living person, you will end up hearing things like, "We will have a technician at you home between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on some Thursday between June and October in the year 2017." Then they will try to get you to purchase a new service or the latest wonder device you don't need.
Our lives teeter on disaster each day and it takes little to push things one way or another. Despite the damage of the lightning strike it could just as easily have caused a fire, which makes a burnt-out toaster oven or having to manually open and close a garage door a minor irritant.

Sometimes, even what bad things happen, you have to accept bad is a whole lot better than really really bad.

And remember, it can happen to anyone.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at