What's up in Waccabuc?

What in tarnations is going on in Waccabuc? Are aliens taking over Sally's Ford Explorer?

This week on Car Talk, we heard from Sally from North Salem, New York, whose daily drive takes her into wonderful Waccabuc. This last time, however, her ride was a little out-of-the-ordinary, to say the least. Some might even say extra-ordinary. As in, extra-terrestially-ordinary.

Suddenly, a bright light flashed next to her, and she heard a loud electrical buzz. Fortunately not abducted, she promptly jumped out of the car. The only clues as to what might be at work? Power lines crossing over the road.

You can hear the dubious details right here.

Just what do you think happened? And, will it happen the next time Sally goes for a ride through Waccabuc?

Share your suggestions for Sally right here. And thanks!

I think a transformer shorted and that was the light and noise. You guys are the best…

She’s had the experience of being in a Farraday cage. Happened to me once, but I was sitting on my bed at the time. Lightning hit the power lines across the street, or possibly the three-story elevator cage at the side of the house (don’t ask). Anyway, there was a bright light, and everything in the room that was electronic had a burst of light and died. The house in essence insulated me from being fried–just as the car did for her. My honey at the time explained to me what had happened, so you’ll get better info from a physicist. But she’s had a Farraday cage experience, and she is NOT crazy!

I think that fishkillranger is correct! This has happened to me. Very loud buzz (EEEEEEEEEEETTTT) along with bright flash

Sounded like a form of ball lightning, it happens in the interior of planes if the conditions are right.

agree Transformer blew

I think that the previous comments are on the right track. I saw a blue ball of light go down the center of a plane during a storm many years ago. I was sitting next to a pilot, who said that it’s called “St. Elmo’s Fire”. I’ve since looked that up, and I think that’s what happened here. Here’s an explanation of it: http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/St_Elmo’s_Fire

I think I know what happened. Once I was on an airplane and experienced the same sort of phenomena. It is called St. Elmo’s Fire and sailors of long ago experienced this out on the open sea when there was high energy static electrical storm stuff going on…the loud noise and bright ball of fire light caused sailors to fall on their knees and pray to St. Elmo to protect them. In my case on the airplane, lightning struck thereby causing a highly electrically charged environment perfect to create this phenomenon. In Sally’s case it was probably due to the overhead power lines in concert with her magnetic personality and Car Talk on the radio. (Well, I made that part up, but it made SUCH a good story!) Look up St. Elmo’s fire. It’s for real. Not kidding.

My dearest Click and Clack. You had a woman describe a bright light with a buzzing sound hit right next to her car’s power outlet and you completely dismissed the idea that it actually could have been lightning. Lightning isn’t as isolated as people think it is, meaning it doesn’t always stay in the radius of a storm. Actually, lightning has been known to travel upwards of five miles before it strikes. One example of this is that a woman, out for a relaxing round of jet-skiing on a clear day was struck by lightning that emanated from a storm about five miles away. The bolt went through her shoulder and out her thigh, leaving her with a recurring numbness in those two areas. Also, all previous explanations mention the St. Elmo’s fire in an airplane situation, and, after some research, there has not been a single instance of St. Elmo’s fire happening near, in, or around a car. If there was a storm or heat lightning near the Waccabuc area, but not actually in the place where she was driving her Explorer, it is most likely that she was in fact struck by an errant bolt of travelling lightning. There. No aliens. Mystery solved!

As an amateur radio operator who works with wires antennas, I’m a preeminent expert in these matters. Wires suspended in space build up static electrical charges from wind and other atmospheric stuff passing around them. When Sally’s explorer passed under the power lines, it breached the charged field surrounding the wires and absorbed the static. It works just like rubbing your hair with a balloon and touching your cat on the nose.

Ok… my next theory is…

It probably was a squirrel that shorted out the transformer and caused the bright flash and sound. Possibly a funeral is in order.

zzzzzz sounds like Sally was visited by a “ball lightning” event zzzzzz

could it have been direct (aka galvanic) current passing through her? if so, her optic nerve could have been “zapped”, which causes perceived flashes of light or brighter/more vivid colors…studies (and my own self with facial “rejuvenation” tools) have proven this phenom.

Check the transformer on the cellphone adapter. Fishkillranger is correct. The transformer in the power cord adapter could fry and flash, causing the noise and the light. Does the cellphone charger still work?

I’ve worked for power companies for years, and her description matches what would happen from a hight voltage electrical fault at the mentioned power lines.
Bright light= A high voltage electrical fault can be similar to a very-large welding arc.
The bright light coming through the windows and windshield could have reflected from the dashboard / console area to give the appearance described.
Sound= a high voltage electrical fault makes an intense sound as she described.
Feeling= much air is moved during a high voltage electrical fault and could transmit enough sound energy that it could be both heard and felt.
The electrical fault may have induced static-type electricity that may also have been felt.

P.S.: I think that Fishkillranger was considering the overhead power lines.

Sally was the unlucky witness of a nearby power line “shorting to ground”. One of the electrical wires in her peripheral vision momentarily lit up like a strait lightning bolt and the accompanying ZIT! sound was loud enough to be heard above road noise and maybe even Ted Nugent blaring from the radio. Good call fishkillranger.

Definately a power surge in the lines overhead, probably caused by a novice squirrel, may he rest in peace.

Love your show…(: O.K., this happened to me too…man I thought I had been called home. After I got my sight and wits back, and my dog was still at the end of the lease, I , being one of your more astute followers, was able to conclude with great confidence that a transformer on the power line had blown up in my face.

Sounds like an animal might have touched the lines the wrong way. If there is enough energy it will vaporize it and you may not see any body. Or it could be energy building up in the lines from solar storms. If the air is dry enough the car could act as a ground and discharge the static built up in the air. when a transformer blows there is usually multiple arcs and explosions with a terrible smell of burning coolant, not just one bright flash.
you can go to NASA and check the space weather for that day to see if there was increased activity.