Sandy Frankenstorm visits for Halloween

High voltage tower and lightning strikes

As I write this, it’s still around 8 hours before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the Mid-Atlantic. Hurricanes, or tropical storms and Nor’easters, can spin up more than just rain and wind. Thunderstorms are likely. A few reminders are appropriate here:

  • Surge suppressors protect your computers and appliances from power surges only if they are plugged into correctly-grounded outlets. Three-prong adapters are not adequate.
  • Surge suppressors protect technology from power spikes that are not extreme. A lightning strike that hits three poles up the street from you will likely be blocked by surge suppressors; a direct hit on the nearest pole, probably not, although on a near strike, a suppressor may still mean the difference between dead electronics and flaming electronics.
  • Cable modems pass surges through on the data line, sometimes without damage to themselves, and will typically destroy the network card or circuit in a computer connected to the modem, along with any router or switch in the circuit. Cable companies discourage the use of surge suppressors on the coaxial cable line–it makes it more difficult for their technology to pass a signal. So a surge suppressor that also protects the network cable, as it passes out of the modem, and before it plugs into a router or switch, is the best way to isolate that electrical path into your computers. I keep these in stock locally, or they’re available here from Amazon.
  • When in doubt, unplug power from computers before a big storm. A computer that’s turned off is still connected to power, and using about 2 watts to power the on-board clock and the electronic front-panel switches. A notebook that’s plugged in will continue to draw power to charge the battery. The best protection is to unplug from power and from any wired networks.