When the sky is darkening and a storm is brewing, most people know not to stay outdoors or take shelter under a tree because of the danger of being struck by lightning, but there is another place to go during should avoid a thunderstorm – the shower. That’s because lightning, no matter how powerful, can actually penetrate through pipes, causing injury and even death.
Because of the danger involved, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning stating: “It’s best to avoid all water during a thunderstorm. Shower, bathe, wash dishes or wash your hands.” Newer homes tend to have plastic pipes instead of metal pipes, but that doesn’t make them lightning-proof. According to the CDC, “The risk of lightning traversing pipelines may be lower with plastic than with metal pipe. However, it is best to avoid contact with plumbing and running water during a thunderstorm to reduce the risk of being hit. “
Thankfully, Mother Nature tends to warn us when a storm is approaching with thunderous sounds. If you can hear a rumble, according to the National Weather Service, it means the storm is less than ten miles away. And where there is thunder, there is of course lightning. To understand how close a storm is, you can count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder and then divide that number by five. The result is how many kilometers away the lightning bolt is.
There are also other places in your home that you should avoid during a storm. The CDC added, “Stay away from porches and balconies, don’t go near windows and doors, and don’t lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.” They also suggest not using anything that plugged into an outlet, such as a television or desktop computer, and that you stay away from corded phones if you have one. Cell phones and cordless phones are fine if they don’t charge.
What to do when you’re outside and caught in a storm? Don’t lie on the floor. The CDC says, “Lightning causes electrical currents along the surface of the earth that can be fatal at a distance of more than 100 feet. Go to a safe place, no place outside is safe. Avoid anything that increases your risk of being struck by lightning, such as near or under tall trees. With no safe shelter in sight, get into a ball-like position: put your feet together, crouch low, duck your head, and cover your ears. But remember, this is a last resort. Find a safe shelter first.”
It might seem like an exaggerated warning, but lightning bolts are no joke. A lightning strike heats the air around the lightning up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five times hotter than the sun’s surface. About 180 people are injured by lightning each year, and 10 percent of those struck die. Most deaths and injuries occur outdoors, typically in the afternoons and evenings during the summer months.
You can learn more about the dangers of lightning on the CDC website.