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Old 05-14-2012, 06:59 AM   #1
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Aluminum Flagpole & Lightning

We have a 25' retractable aluminum flagpole we set up when camping and tailgating. Especially nice for tailgating as we fly USA, State of Nevada, College and retired Army flags.

We're doing a trip to Sturgis SD for the big bike rally in August and we'll have the flagpole set up while camping. A lot of time there will be spent riding and seeing the sights. I understand thunder storms are somewhat common in SD in August and that 25' flag pole might act like a lightning rod.

The way we set it up it, it sits on the ground and is zip tied to the ladder. I'm planning on wrapping some pipe insulation around the flagpole where it makes contact with the ladder.

I know direct lightning strikes can do some pretty serious damage to just about anything it hits and there's a lot of sensitive electronics on a motorhome that could be fried by a lightning strike.

Should the pipe insulation and the butt of the flagpole resting on the ground give me enough protection?
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Old 05-14-2012, 07:46 AM   #2
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Should the pipe insulation and the butt of the flagpole resting on the ground give me enough protection?
Doubt it. Our home flag pole was hit a couple of years ago. It's 30' out into the yard. Fried two computers and an AM/FM reciever inside the house. It's known as flux.
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Old 05-14-2012, 07:53 AM   #3
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No. Insulation is useless at the voltages generated by a lightning strike.

I would take it down if I were going to be absent from my RV for any period of time.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:54 AM   #4
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What you have is a 25' lightning rod without a very good electrical path to ground. As Hal Miller reported, the electro magnetic pulse from a near-by strike is enough to fry lots of stuff. The idea of lightning rods on a structure is to provide a path for the electro magnetic pulse into the ground. There are claims that the rods allow the static charge near/on the structure to bleed off and lessen the potential for a strike. Here's what Wikappedia lists:

"Lightning protection system
Because of the high energy and current levels associated with lightning (currents can be in excess of 150,000 amps), and the very rapid rise time of a lightning strike, no lightning protection system can guarantee absolute safety from lightning. Lightning current will divide to follow every conductive path to ground, and even the divided current can cause damage. Secondary "side-flashes" can be enough to ignite a fire, blow apart brick, stone, or concrete, or injure occupants within a structure or building. However, the benefits of basic lightning protection systems have been evident for well over a century.[12]"

SO... If you want a chunk of aluminum sticking up in the airt around your rig, at least drive a metal stake (re-bar works) in the ground at the base of the pole and set up a good electrical path to it from the pole.

By having the pole mounted on the ladder and suspended from electrical ground you are asking the lightning pluse to blast its way into your rig and richocett around looking for a place to go to get to ground.

As Ham radio operators, we know that the best thing to do is to take down the antenna BEFORE the storm gets close to our MH.
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Old 05-14-2012, 09:46 AM   #5
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I agree with the above posters, Lightning is nothing you want to attract anywhere near your electronics filled RV. Ben Franklin's lightning rod was a great invention, but he didn't have many sensitive electronic components in his house! Remember, a circuit board can be killed by the static spark from your fingertip, imagine what a lightning bolt can do!
Take the pole down if lightning threatens.
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Old 05-14-2012, 09:39 PM   #6
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I just got in my pole for our trailer. It is a 25' collapsible fiberglass pole. Holy crap 25' is tall. I have no idea what I was thinking when I got one that big.
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Old 05-15-2012, 10:50 PM   #7
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Good replies. Thanks for the thoughts and advise folks. Very sensible information.

I think I will keep a very close watch on the weather forecast and if it says scatter thunderstorms or the sky starts getting dark, the flagpole is coming down right away.
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Old 05-20-2012, 03:17 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by NorthTexas View Post
I just got in my pole for our trailer. It is a 25' collapsible fiberglass pole. Holy crap 25' is tall. I have no idea what I was thinking when I got one that big.
Ha! Reminds me of fishing with my Dad in the high mountains lightning started. We headed back to camp with our poles pointed upwards. The pre-strike tingling made us drop our graphite/carbon poles and run for cover!
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:23 AM   #9
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I'm with the above. Even if that pole is sunk into the ground and soaked in salt, the fact that your RV is directly alongside it is a guaranteed death sentence for every piece of electronics in the coach, possibly people. Even if isolated, the energy still needs to dissipate from the point the pole would be on the ground, and a 30' steel chassis is far lower resistance than 30' of dirt.

If you're concerned, simply don't do it because there is nothing you can do to float a lightening strike.
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