Turning

Subject:
Re: Honey locust lightning strike

Keith Newton
Back when I was running, I was out on a gated forest road in Ouachita NF. I found a piece of fresh sapwood about 2x2x6" laying in the road. There were no track since the last frost heave months earlier. I stood there inspecting and scratching my head, then decided to short cut back over the ridge back to the truck. About 200 yards away I came up on a tree about like that, except the bottom 8' was still standing. The upper was mostly hanging off the limbs of surrounding trees like spaghetti.

I puzzled over that about 15 years when I think I found the cause. I cut a Black Tupelo tree which was a bout 24" D, for a huge burl about 30' up. When I cut into it, I got soaked when the chain penetrated a column of water that must have been full up to that burl. The stream shot straight out about 8' for longer than I expected.

Normally when lightning strikes a tree it is on the outside, maybe following a little stream of gritty tea that flows down from the main branches. Those little streams instantly turn to steam, which can completely knock the bark off, or just bruise the cambium enough to loosen the bark that stays intact, which is worse than blowing it off, since insects will move into the space and set up housekeeping.

If a hollow tree holds a column of water, like the one I described in the first paragraph and maybe this one, when the plasma arc goes through the water and turns it all to steam in the blink of an eye that would make a huge explosion.

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