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What's up in Waccabuc?

I think cloakingdevice is smack on. Many years ago my wife, 2 young kids and I were heading back to grad school at UMass, Amherst on Rt. 2 after visiting parents at the eastern end of the state. We were in a Volvo pv544. That’s how long ago. It was dark night and snowing lightly when smack bam out of nowhere there was a brilliant flash seemingly very close in front of the car, a loud sizzly noise and the interior of the car lit up like someone had fired a flash attachment. I stopped dead right where I was to be sure no one was injured. As I recall we smelled a peculiar odor (ionization?). We were ok, the kids slept through it and we continued on, never to experience that again.

I agree with fishkillranger - we live next to a transformer & many times have heard that sound, seen that flash as the transformer blows. Spectacular!!!

I’m a psychiatrist and i don’t think she’s psychotic. I’ve seen this, too. (which doesn’t in its self rule out psychosis).

The sound she describes is the sound of a high voltage arc. The only place that could come from would be the power lines. What could cause the arc? There is a transformer in our back yard. The squirrels must like the heat of the transformer because twice a squirrel crossed the top electrodes and shorted it out. We heard a low pitched bzzzt, then a BIG explosion. The flash was blinding.

She didn’t hear an explosion, so the other thing that happens is that the wind blows 2 wires close enough to arc.then you get the bzzt and the flash, but no explosion. That’s what she saw.

This is one way we weather spotters spot tornado like activity at night.


Likely a coincidental short circuit of the power lines overhead maybe from something such as a metallic balloon which would explain the buzz and the light.

I also believe it to be the transformer. I was outside shoveling snow this October, yes October, and a small tree branch fell on the line. A loud sizzling sound began, followed by a few sparks, a small fire, a loud pop, and then a flash of light reminiscent of the Men in Black memory erasers. I live near Waccabuc and this town has more trees overhanging the lines than SBC has rate hikes.

Sounds like St. Elmo’s fire, although that usually occurs when there is thunder and lightening, and Sally said it was clear. Very cool. I wish I could experience it once.

I have had this happen to me…it was, without a doubt, a transformer blowing at the exact time she was going under it…and it will definitely freak you out!

There have been geomagnetic storms on Earth, caused by the suns activity. The electricity runs along the ground. Greater minds than mine can fill in the details - but i think this may be it!

Maybe a transformer, but more likely a short circuit in the wires caused by a tree limb hitting the wires or a bird shorting one wire to another. The bright light and ZZZZ sound relate more to a short than to a transformer. I have seen both (standing directly under a 13000 volt line as it shorted. There was a second sound directly after the blast, but that had more to do with my uinderwear!! The giveaway on a transformer blast is the brown cloud of evaporated PCB that shows up directly as it blows plus a round lid flying through the air, reminding one of a UFO.

you guys always find humorous ways to (nicely) mess with people as well as offer great solutions but you missed a couple of key questions when questioning her about the discharge.

  1. if in fact a large® discharge of some sort occurred in her passenger compartment, there would almost have to be some sort of burning/singing/discoloration damage associated with heat portion of the discharge along the path of travel. I know from investigating lightning damage in HVAC and other equipment that there usually but not always, surface damage in proximity to the expected entry/exit points.
  2. you didnt ask whether the car charger was ruined as a result of the discharge. the cars electrical system in general and higher amp draw portion (ie the charger is a transformer) in particular. the portion of the system experiencing the largest load at the time is almost always the path the discharges prefer. thats why if lightning hits your home distribution system, the a/c, refrigerator, hd tv’s and your computers usually get zapped first -they’re the largest amp draws.
    its most likely IMO that the power lines had something to do with it and I vote for the Faraday idea -thats how military aircraft protect their sensitive electronics from damage that would occur near a nuclear detonation- and the other bit of info she offered, that it was a clear day (ie low humidity day which makes such discharges more likely) makes me agree with Karyn. and I disagree with people who suggested it was simply the charger itself failing. not enough amps to cause what she stated. and your observation that she was startled and likely exaggerated the size of the flash due to radio interference sound was spot on.

and note to packerdal -when you witnessed the event you described fear not-there were no PCB’s in there. the EPA has mandated for over a decade that a limit of <1ppm I believe has to exist in any transformer used in public locations.
there’s a sticker on every oil filled transformer you’ll see attesting to the fact that the owner is satisfied the level complies w/federal law. another example of the govt actually protecting your health for which we (unless you’re a wall st gazillionaire or large multinational corp) have to pay taxes to support and finance.

I too live near Waccabuc NY, and can assure you there is no UFO or other paranormal activity going on here (other than listening to Car Talk… but that’s another “abby-normal” activity).

It looks like the other listeners have hit it. While it is possible that the bright discharge could have been from the power line, or power transformer, it is contradictory to the information given by Sally.
She says the flash was from the INSIDE of the car, near the phone charger. Assuming she is correct, then it is most likely a fault inside the charger. Yes, electrical components can fail with a flash. As an electrical engineer, I have seen this numerous times (not that I am admitting to having caused it myself). It doesn’t matter if the phone was connected or not, the charger circuitry is active whenever plugged into the car outlet.
The unasked question is “Does the phone charger still work?”

She is driving a Hyundai Sante Fe - about a 2006 model. (or similar) - The Gear Shift area is a slightly curved -domed - chrome plate - that is where the flash comes from. The antenna on this mini-SUV is a rubber-ducky style on top of the roof - it ALWAYS does the ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ buzz when it is near a high power line. I have experienced this many times - not simultaneously - but the flash is amazing when the sun hits the gear shift chrome trim and the Buzz is really annoying.

What I believe happened was that Sally happened to pass under a high tension tranmission line at the time of a phase fault to ground through a tower support; no transformers around, just the line. At the time she did so, an electrical fault occurred (probably one phase to ground), and also probably because a support insulator failed allowing the short circuit to ground failure.

The fault would have generated a vey loud all encompassing BUZZ sound and the electrial arc to ground would have been easily capable of generating the extrordinarily bright light she described, both of which would have happend in an instant. The light and sound would have sounded much like a welding arc. Both events are normal in a high tension fault to ground event.

Because lines are monitored for faults by electronic relays, the relays casued the breaker feeding the fault to open at virtually the same time (think instantaneously), as the fault occurred. Thus avoiding more damage to the line and or other equipment in the circuit. As soon as the breaker opened, the fault was cleared and when Sally leaped out of the truck there would have been little if any evidence of a problem. Expecially to those unitiated in high tension line faults.

She could not have known that the 3 phase circuit breaker feeding the line had tripped and locked out thus interrupting the circuit and stopping the fault from continuting. In other words - all would have looked well; no evidence, no smoke and no damage and no immediately explainable reason for the phenomonen.

Though statistically it may be a bit unusual for such a thing to happen to someone at the moment one is passing under a line, electrical faults in transmission and distribution systems happen all the time. Sometimes people see them and sometimes they don’t. By the way I do have experience in industrial electrical systems.

Or the other explanation is that in a few months, Sally will give birth to a child of extraordinary unexplainable powers and strength… and the story will become even more interesting.

In my opinion the truck does not have a problem, it just happened to be there with Sally.


A power company TRANSFORMER blew up on the side of the road …That’s by bet as well. She did a great job describing the sound. :^)

mikerph I believe there are 2 seperate items to consider. The first is automotive - the loud hum due to interference from the high tension wires. The second (and possibly much more serious ) item has to do with the intense bright light. It is possible that as the lady jerked her head at the loud sound she actually caused a slight retinal detachment in her eye or disturbed the optic nerve. Either of these will result in an intense,brief flash of white light. She may consider getting examined by an opthalmologist… I am not an opthalmologist; but, I am a retired pharmacist with over 30 years of hospital experience. Good luck to her.

I think Dave N’s response or the St Elmo’s are the best responses, but…

I think the point that everyone has missed here, except RickNY, is that the phone charger was plugged in but the phone was not connected. The exposed end of the charger that plugs into the phone is metal and if it contacted a grounded part of the car somewhere around where it was hanging, there would have been a completed electrical circuit, a short to ground, that would have caused all of the described phenomenon inside the car. Sally should check for a blackened mark on the end of the charger plug and to look for a corresponding black mark on something metal within reach of the charger cord.

I was on a flight somewhere over Tucson when our flight was hit by St Elmo’s fire. A flash of light went through the entire length of the plane. The only sound above the prayers was a slight Vzzoom.
Other than that we lived in Garrison on the Old Albany Post Road and fifty yards from our house was a power line with a transformer. About every four months or so it would blow. VVvZZzzzttt!! And a flash of light that would light up our living room.

This phenomena happens at our house usually when a squirrel gets into a transformer. There is this loud electrical buzzing noise and then a blinding flash, causing me, since I grew up the 50s, to duck and cover. I think a transformer shorted out near her car and she could not tell where the flash came from.