From the Archive: The ultimate vandal

From the Archive: The ultimate vandal

By David Rookhuyzen / ADOT Communications
June 4, 2021

It's safe to say that ADOT's stance against vandalism is well known.

We have a plan in place to clean up graffiti wherever it's found, and have even gotten inventive to keep our highway signs looking spick and span. 

But that's for ordinary kinds of vandalism. What happens when it's a little more extraordinary?

We found the answer to that in the July 1970 issue of Hiway Drumbeats, the old employee newsletter for the Arizona Highway Department, ADOT's predecessor.

Apparently they were having trouble with a particular type of sign damage (as you can see to your right) caused by ... well, why don't we just quote the article in full for you?

When it comes to vandalism and destruction of Highway signs, everybody tries to get into the act, according to Kennth P. Hamblin, Highway Marking Superintendent.

This time it's the lightning bolts of Mother Nature.

"The metallic foil," explained Mr. Hamblin, "which gives the sign its reflectively at night also serves as an attractor to lightning bolts.

"If the steel sign post happens to be driven into a hidden ore deposit, it really becomes an attractor. We have had to relocate some signs which were being hit repeatedly by lightning. After relocating them a half a mile or so, the problem ended."

The annual damage bill was placed at $1,000 by Mr. Hamblin. 

Vandalism by lightning is particularly involved during the summer months when thunder storms arise suddenly both in the high country and the desert.

Apparently when Mother Nature itself is the vandal, the only thing you can do is get out of her way.

Luckily, these sort of incidents are incredibly rare. As we told you about in an earlier blog, highway signs generally have a lifespan of at least a dozen years, but often much more.

But even if our signs are safe, that doesn't mean we don't still have the random shocking run-in with Mother Nature's own brand of vandalism.

Related Tags