Is it safe to shower during a thunderstorm?

Have you ever been told never to shower during a thunderstorm? Whether you still follow this rule or not, you may not know why the warning is there – or whether it is even legitimate. Because unless you shower outside, the consequences of foaming up during a storm seem pretty minimal, right?

As it turns out, experts should avoid showering during a thunderstorm if possible — and for good reason. Here's what you need to know about showering during a thunderstorm and why you might want to stop bathing if you see the dark clouds gathering.

What's the problem with swimming during a thunderstorm?

In a thunderstorm, it's not the thunder that matters, but the lightning that every thunderstorm produces. You may be thinking: But my shower is inside and the lightning is outside. While that may be true, electricity can still flow indoors through your plumbing system.

“The idea is to not electrically connect to the outside world when there is lightning nearby,” Joseph Dwyer, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of New Hampshire, tells Yahoo Life. “Lightning currents could, for example, reach the inside of the house via the electrical wiring, send sparks into the pipes and give you a shock while showering or in the bathtub.”

Lightning expert Aaron Treadway, the National Weather Service's acting program manager for severe weather, tells Yahoo Life that both the metal pipes and the water within them “are very good conductors of electricity for lightning that could strike the home or surrounding area.” Even if you have polyvinyl chloride [plastic] Pipes in your house, the water they contain can pose a danger as a conductor of electricity.

How do you know you are able to shower?

It's important to note that it's not just showering that's a problem. Washing your hands or doing dishes—indeed, anything where you are connected to water and plumbing—can be dangerous during a thunderstorm.

Taking a nice hot shower right after the storm passes may seem tempting, but Treadway suggests putting it off. “Once the storm passes, it is a general rule to wait 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder to resume your indoor and outdoor activities,” he explains. “If you are close enough to hear thunder, whether you are indoors or outdoors, you are close enough to be struck by lightning or to be struck by lightning.”

What else is dangerous during a thunderstorm?

It's important to know that the safest place to be during a storm is indoors, whether in a house or a car. You want to make sure that nothing you do connects you to the outside world. While this includes the use of plumbing within a home, it can also include wiring.

Using a landline phone can be dangerous during a thunderstorm, as can plugging anything into an electrical outlet, such as a hairdryer or laptop cord. You can still use your cell phone or laptop as long as they are not charged and plugged into a power outlet.

“The wiring and installation in a home helps direct lightning energy safely into the ground,” says Treadway. “As long as a person does not interact with anything on the wiring or plumbing, they are safely isolated.”

What other safety tips can you recommend during thunderstorms?

Treadway notes that it's important to “stay away from windows and exterior doors” during a thunderstorm. You should also avoid porches because if lightning strikes nearby, the charges “can still pass through the ground or nearby objects.”

The good news is that you most likely won't be trapped inside without being able to use the plumbing or electronics for long periods of time. On average, thunderstorms only last about half an hour – although this can vary, especially if there are isolated storms in the area.

However, patience can mean the difference between safety and injury or death. Lightning primarily causes injuries to the nervous system and can also cause cardiac arrest. Therefore, experts recommend staying indoors, dry and not using any devices that are plugged in until the storm has completely passed.

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