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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987