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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thunder and Lightning Strikes

Lots of thunder and lightning the other day (July 17) - a true sound and light show, including 1.7 inches of rain.

When we realized the storm was on our doorstep, we pulled the power plugs on our computers and peripherals (printer, router, cable modem). We probably should have done the same with the TV and kitchen appliances, but the consequences of them being fried by lightning are far less severe than losing a computer with its software and stored data. You can replace a TV or a microwave oven by just buying another one - or some modular part. But, reinstalling software on a new computer with all the old preferences and other settings and/or recalling, reinstalling and organizing lost data from a back-up source can be tremendously time consuming. If you don’t have a back-up source for important data, then the consequences may be insurmountable.

Shortly after we disconnected, all the power went off for about 4 hours until ICE came to the rescue. ICE (pronounced “ee-say” in Spanish) is the government power agency in Costa Rica. Where we live in Atenas, outages tend to be relatively infrequent. But, on any given day, there may be one or more “blips” where the power switches off and on within a split second. This turns out to be more of an annoyance than a serious issue. Sometimes, a “blip” will cause an internet connection to be lost and it becomes necessary to go through the bother of reconnecting.

Surge Protectors

All of our computers and peripheral equipment are plugged into “surge protectors”. This protects against the usual outages and "blips". However, it would be a huge mistake to assume that this provides adequate protection against lightning strikes. The surge from a lightning strike could easily blow through any surge protector that you might buy at a computer or electronics store. See, for example:

http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/S/surge_protector.html

Heavy duty surge protectors or systems which can afford significant but not unlimited protection against lightning strikes are available but are undoubtedly far more costly than the store bought varieties. See, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surge_protector

In Costa Rica as elsewhere, one should never leave computers, etc. plugged into anything if there is any threat of a lightning storm.

 

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