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Striking Lightning Out

Lightning fries more than $1 billion worth of sensitive computer, television, and stereo equipment each year; startup Storm Shelter Electronics in Savannah, GA, has developed the first commercial device that provides protection from these massive power surges. Storm Shelter continuously monitors data from the National Lightning Detection Network (a network of sensors operated by Vaisala in Tucson, AZ) and wirelessly pages a user’s device whenever lightning strikes within six kilometers. The device sounds an audible alert. Twenty seconds later, it disconnects the power to all linked electronics by creating an internal physical gap of two centimeters, across which an electrical surge as great as 34,000 volts cannot jump. (Standard surge protectors can handle spikes of only several hundred volts.) Once the threat has passed, Storm Shelter sends an all-clear page and reconnects the power. The company plans to start selling a commercial product in late spring; a consumer version is scheduled for next year.

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