Ever been told you shouldn’t shower during a lightning storm?
You probably figured it was just and old wives’ tale like the one about chewing gum staying in your stomach for 7 years if you swallow it or the one about waiting 30 minutes after eating before jumping in the pool, but it turns out that you probably should avoid a lot of water-related activities (indoors or out) during a lightning storm.
Most of us will automatically head indoors during a lightning storm. The National Weather Service has even coined the phrase “When thunder roars, go indoors.”, but did you know that, roughly, one third of all lightning-strike injuries occur indoors?
To protect yourself indoors, avoid lying on or leaning against concrete floors and walls as lightning can travel through metal wires or bars in concrete, avoid plugged in electronics or corded phones (cordless and mobile phones are fine), and avoid contact with water as lightning can travel through plumbing.
In fact, the CDC’s Lighting Safety page warns us not to “bathe, shower, wash dishes, or have any other contact with water during a thunderstorm” and, in a recent story out of Oklahoma, we learn that we should probably add “using the toilet” to the list of water-related activities to avoid.
According to the Okmulgee Fire Department in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, a toilet bowl was destroyed when a lightning bolt struck the roof of an apartment complex and traveled inside. Thankfully, the unit was vacant, but it was set to be rented out the very next day!
The odds of being struck by lightning are less than 1 in a million, but it does strike about 300 people per year in the United States and about 10% of those who are struck die, so don’t increase your chances, especially if you live in Florida, the “lightning capital” of the country, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries over the past 50 years.