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No. 90: Nov-Dec 1993

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Can thunderstorms stall cars?

Some UFO reports aver that the presence of luminous phenomena (interpreted as alien vehicles) have stalled automobile engines. Here follows an unsensational report, sans UFOs, but with identical consequences.

July 20, 1992. Near Valognes, France. A. Lunt and O. Whalley were driving a Citroen 2CV in heavy rain. Lightning in the distance only.

"While the car was four to five metres from the approaching halt sign with the gears still engaged, the engine cut out. The car was brought to a stop at the halt sign and when the puzzled men found that the car would not restart they spent some 10-15 seconds wondering what to do. Then suddenly there was a huge flash, described as an 'explosion', only two metres behind and to their right as lightning went to ground in a triangular, gravelled area which formed part of the road junction system. The inside of the car and the surrounding countryside lit up brightly and, simultaneously, there was a terrific crash of thunder. Startled, the occupants stayed in the car for a minute longer without trying to restart the engine before stepping outside to raise the bonnet of the car. The engine appeared dry and there was no discernible reason for its failure. Then, upon getting back into the car, the engine started at once, since when the vehicle has given no further trouble."

Of course this single incident cannot prove that the powerful electrical field preceding a lightning stroke interfered with the car's ignition system. This report is suggestive only. (Meaden, G.T.; "Impending Lightning Stroke Stalls Car Engine?" Weather, 48:29, 1993.)

From Science Frontiers #90, NOV-DEC 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss