The Daily Courier Logo
Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
3:56 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

Arizona summer: Lightning can affect computers, other appliances

The Daily Courier file/Nathaniel Kastelic
A recent storm disables traffic lights at the intersection of Highway 69 and Heather Heights Road in Prescott delaying traffic in both directions.

The Daily Courier file/Nathaniel Kastelic A recent storm disables traffic lights at the intersection of Highway 69 and Heather Heights Road in Prescott delaying traffic in both directions.

Monday's lightning storm caused power failures lasting from seconds to a minute across the tri-city area, an APS official said.

APS reported "no widespread outages or anything like that," said Mike Johnsen, community relations manager for APS in Prescott.

However, Johnsen and others advise consumers that lightning can damage computers and other appliances.

"Lightning can travel" and cause "transient surges" that damage the circuitry of microwave ovens, televisions, computers and other appliances that contain computer chips, Johnsen said.

Lightning can blow and damage electronic boards in computers, making them inoperable, said Chuck Dorris, field service manager for American Computer Centers in Dewey-Humboldt.

"During monsoon season, we probably get half a dozen calls a day from lightning-strike damage," Dorris said. "Sometimes, it will just take out a (computer) modem. Sometimes, it will take out a whole computer."

Dorris advises computer owners to unplug the computer and any cables, including modems, from the wall.

"Anything lightning can strike outside can travel from a cable into a computer," he said.

Johnsen said electric ovens are on all the time if they have clocks, and televisions are on if the consumers use remote control.

He also suggests visiting a qualified electrical supplier that sells surge protection equipment.

Dorris said surge protection for computers can help to some extent while acknowledging a lightning strike can "still jump the surge protector."

Lightning spares land lines for Qwest because the phone company has a separate power source, said Jeff Mirasola, a Qwest spokesman based in Phoenix.

"If the commercial power goes out, we encourage people to have a regular corded phone," Mirasola said. "The only thing you do is to plug it into the telephone jack."

Mirasola urges consumers to avoid cordless and cell phones during lightning storms because they will need to use electricity to recharge the batteries for the phones.

He said that he is unaware of any danger from using a corded phone during a lightning storm.

Lightning can place people in danger outside if they stand near trees because trees "are kind of like a lightning rod," said Charlie Cook, assistant chief and fire marshal for the Central Yavapai Fire District.

However, Cook said people would be "fairly safe" inside cars during lightning storms because tires make the cars grounded.

"So, if you are out in the open, you are better off sitting in a car than standing next to a tree that can be struck by lighting," Cook said.

Cook said staying indoors does not always provide protection from lightning. Lightning has struck homes and blown holes through roofs and the ceilings of living rooms.

"If your house gets hit, it can do damage to your wiring," Cook said. "I've seen the wiring insulation melted away from a lightning strike. What that does is that it leaves those wires bare."

He said a lightning strike came within 10 feet of striking a home in Dewey-Humboldt Monday afternoon but caused no damage.