Companies that offer lightning protection say calls for their services have increased. Rob Elgas reports.
A lightning strike to a home can cause a fire that could reduce the structure to rubble in just minutes, but a special installation can protect the investment and all the irreplaceable valuables within it.
Already this summer, a number of homeowners in the Chicago area have felt nature's fury. Among them is Melanie Dennis, who watched as a lightning strike destroyed her new Lemont home and everything inside within an hour, including the urn holding her daughter's ashes.
"Everything had arrived five days before the fire," she said. "I knew at that time that there was nothing they could do to save it."
Her home could have been spared had it been equipped with a system like those offered by companies like HLP Systems of Libertyville.
"What lightning protection system will do: It will protect the building," said company president Jeff Harger. "It won't prevent a lightning strike. A lot of people think it will prevent the strike. It doesn’t prevent it."
Harger said he's seen increased calls to his company, now in its third generation, by homeowners who don't want to become victims. HLP Systems has installed lightning protection a number of homes and businesses through the years, including Willis Tower, Trump Tower, and NBC Tower.
Protection starts on the roof. Licensed workers install rods that force the furious charge of a bolt down to the ground instead of into the home. Surge protection helps protect electronics.
"The mindset sometimes is, 'I have insurance that will cover it.' ... Insurance isn’t going to get your kids baby pictures. It’s not going to bring back your treasured items," explained Harger.
Costs for the product range from $1,800 to $2,200 for a small home, and perhaps up to $8,000 for larger or unique homes, he said.
Barrington resident Jon Coughlin called the company after he watched a neighbor's upscale home burn to the ground after a lightning strike.
"It was quite a surprise because I didn't even know storms were in the area," he said. "It is random. But when you have enough randomness in your neighborhood, you decide that there's something perhaps more perhaps you can do."