W8CAR Back on the Air After Lightning Strike
On May 28, 2016 a lightning strike at W8CAR caused considerable damage and put Dan’s station off the air. After much work (and expense) Dan is nearly back to normal. Here is his report. See the photo gallery for pictures.
W8CAR Lightning Strike 5/28/16
While operating during the CWWPX CW contest at the end of May the W8CAR station had some excitement. My wife alerted me to nearby thunder and an app on my phone let me know it was close by. Time to shut down for awhile. Grounded all antennas and left the shack. My wife and I were talking down stairs when we both jumped as a LOUD “KABOOM” was heard outside. The shack breaker was tripped and once I figured that out, our power was restored.
A quick check of the radios showed both the FT1000MP (which was off and not connected to any antennas) and Elecraft K3 were dead. The picture of the MP shows the display that came on after the strike. All 8s was a rather pathetic sight. The K3 came back up but indicated an ERR code that indicated that the I/O board was dead and the radio showed drawing 22 amps in receive (normal is around .5) and transmit showed no output. The computer was dead and I thought the AL1500 was done but later proved to be okay.
After turning everything off and dragging myself out of the shack, I ignored it till the weather let up and I could look outside and investigate further. What I found was not good! The 80 meter wire vertical (full size) was lying on the ground. In one of the pictures you can see the burn marks on the top insulator and the antenna wire loop with missing wire. As I investigated further I found more damage. The stepper motor controller was toast (see melted IC in picture), an Ameritron remote antenna switch has melted relay contacts and the control head is dead, the computer lost a video card used for 2 monitors, The variable capacitors on the 160 and 80 meter verticals were arced and in one the connection was melted, both serial to usb controllers used for the radios were toast and of course, both radios were dead. The amplifier (it has not gotten lighter!) turned out to be okay after testing with my venerable IC706.
At the time I write this I have a claim in with my insurance. I must say so far they have been pretty easy to work with. They required that I have documentation that both radios were damaged by lightning but took my word for the other items. The MP is back from WA4GEG in TN who fixed it in record time. My K3 is being shipped and should arrive tomorrow. I ended up switching computers due to the wonderful people at Microsoft who apparently decided that since I fixed my computer I wanted Windows 10. Even after reverting to WIN 7 it apparently has some other malady.
Upon analysis, the lightning hit about 10 feet from the top of my 80 and 160 antennas peeling bark and some wood off. The tree is now dropping leaves so I hope it will make it. The induced voltage came in on the Ameritron switch, its control cable and the control cables for the stepper motor, then into the computer and radios. I think there was no direct grounding on the computer-I usually do that but must have had a brain cramp. Strangely, the OLD Heathkit manual antenna switches seem to have survived!
I have replaced the Ameritron switch with a lightning protected one. The ground system will be completely redone as time permits. I plan to do a complete audit of the station and get serious about reducing the possibility of damage in the event of an induced voltage.
—A direct hit—-let’s not go there!