I’m grateful for my brand-spanking new LiftMaster. But if you think I’m trying out a new butt-tightening machine or taking up power-lifting, let me ease your mind. The LiftMaster is our new garage door opener. Isn’t she a beauty?
Lightning struck our garage last week. It also nailed a tree just beyond our front yard. We thought it struck our home because the bolt was so intense, we felt our house shake and our fire alarms went off. The alarms silenced after a few seconds while Mr. Groovy and I ran upstairs and found Groovy Cat. He was tucked under a bed, hiding. We inspected both levels and Mr. Groovy checked the attic. We found nothing. No smoke. No damage.
Our next door neighbor phoned within minutes. She thought her home was struck too, and she was panicking because she saw a large spark behind her TV set. But she, too, found no evidence that her house was struck. We met outside our back doors and immediately smelled smoke. She phoned her boyfriend, a fireman, for advice. He said do not touch doors, windows, water, or anything electrical, and he called for a fire truck and crew to pay us a visit.
As we waited, we walked over to my front yard where a few neighbors congregated, inspecting a tree. The tree is just a few feet from our property and lightening struck it big-time. It still stood tall but it had long, vertical sear marks in a few places. Two of our neighbors came to check on us because they witnessed the lightning strike the tree from across the street.
The fire department arrived pretty quickly. Two firemen jumped off the truck and spoke to my neighbor and me for maybe half a minute. One of them claimed all was good and said, “Gotta run and put out some real fires”. Then they went on their merry way. Hellllooooo! What about us? They fled so quickly we were dumbfounded. When my neighbor’s boyfriend heard we got the bum’s rush he was furious. However, within fifteen minutes the burnt smell began to dissipate. Mr. Groovy and I decided to check the attic once more before going to bed and advised our neighbor to do the same.
The next morning I first realized our garage door opener was fried. I tried to open the door using the button on the wall mount inside the garage, but the door wouldn’t budge. I saw a red glow behind the mount—the switch was receiving power. The unit just didn’t work.
Then it all came together—our detached garage is just a few feet from our back door. Our neighbor’s home has the same layout, and her TV, where she saw the spark, is on her back wall. The lightening came from behind our houses, traveled quickly to the front yard, hit a tree— and missed our homes entirely. How lucky was that?
Ironically, “call the garage door company” was on my to-do list for months. Our old garage door opener was acting up. The remote we use to open the door from the car wasn’t doing the trick. We changed the battery but that didn’t help. I suspected the sensors were shot and it would cost around $200 to replace them. Mr. Groovy was less optimistic and figured we needed an entirely new unit for around $400. But we never got around to making the calls.
However, lightning forced our hand—time for a service call. OK I know some of you might consider a garage door opener a want, not a need. After all, the garage has a back door through which we can enter and manually lift the front door. Yes, that works just fine. And that’s OK for leaving the house—but the return trip is downright annoying. First Mr. Groovy parks in our driveway. We both get out of the car, traipse through mud to the back door of the garage and enter. Then Mr. Groovy hoists up the front door, and I hold it in place while he returns to the car and drives in. And finally, he rolls down the door and locks it with a latch. Phew! I’m so grateful we don’t go through that production anymore. But I’m even more grateful that our house wasn’t destroyed.
During every storm the news broadcasts stories of homes in our area catching on fire and electrical lines falling down. Last year during a storm, a neighbor on her laptop was shocked and thrown across the room. Televisions are often completely obliterated—which is why many folks purchase extended warranties. We put surge protectors on our TVs, major appliances and laptops, and we have a professionally installed surge protector on our HVAC system. But we don’t have one of those “whole-home” surge protectors. It may be worth investigating.
In the end, the LiftMaster cost $350—that includes the unit, a new wall mount, a remote, and labor. The expense was totally worth it. Now we come and go without angst. I just need to update our vacation checklist with “Unplug garage door opener”. I’ll add it to: turn off water, unplug washer and dryer, TVs and laptops.
We can’t control the elements but we can take reasonable precautions to protect ourselves and our property. It only takes a few minutes of preparation to gain a little peace of mind. Which reminds me—we’re due for a dryer vent cleaning. We’ve let that one drop to the bottom of the to-do list too.
What weather and fire precautions do you take at home?
Has lightning ever damaged your property?
I would love for you to share any tips.