25 September 2020

"It was like a bomb going off": Lightning strike blasts kitchen wall in NSW home

| Hannah Sparks
Start the conversation
Colin Picker standing in kitchen damaged by lightning.

Colin Picker stands where lightning hit the kitchen of his home in Bigga. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

A NSW couple was just a few feet away from a lightning strike that blasted through their kitchen wall and threw them into darkness during the storm on the night of Monday, 21 September.

The lightning strike to their home in Bigga, north of Canberra, caused the wall to crack in multiple places; blew the air conditioning unit off the wall; threw a picture frame and phone socket to the other side of the kitchen; and melted electrical wiring.

READ MORE “It was like a mini-tornado,” says Tidbinbilla Station owner

There was debris across the kitchen counter and on the floor, and burn marks on the counter from the melted electrical wiring.

The home’s residents, Anne and Colin Picker, were watching television in the living room next to the kitchen and said “it was like a bomb going off”.

Mr Picker said the couple could have been seriously injured or killed if they had been in the kitchen at the time.

READ ALSO Fire claimed their town, now Mogo’s young women learn how to fight back

Electricians who restored power to the house on Tuesday, 22 September, told Mr Picker they had never seen anything like it, and that no-one else from the village had reported damage from the storm.

The lightning strike also melted the television aerial on the roof and Mr Picker found what looks like welding marks on a nearby gate, and mud splattered on an awning that could only be explained by the lightning strike.

“We think the lightning strike ran through the phone line and blew everything out,” he said. “It frightened the hell out of us.”

Stuart McMaster from Complete Electrical Service in Canberra said the lightning strike might have run through the couple’s phone line.

“When lightning hits the ground, it can shoot power back through the [home electrical] system and the level of damage will depend on the proximity of the hit to the home,” he said.

When there is a fault with an appliance in a home, such as a fridge or television, the power should go through the earthing system, a path of low resistance that takes the power to the ground away from the home and the people inside it, explained Mr McMaster.

READ ALSO Woman dies, another trapped in serious crash on South Coast

Lightning looks for a path of low resistance, but the sheer power from a lightning strike is too great and has nowhere to go, resulting in damage to a home, he said.

Mr McMaster added that damage to houses from lightning in the Canberra region is rare.

Donald Kelly from Tercel, lightning protection specialists in Canberra, agrees. He said he rarely sees damage to buildings from lightning but that he had seen corners of brick buildings blown off by it.

The Pickers are working with insurers to repair their home.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.