Is It Safe to Shower During a Storm?

A lightning storm can rival fireworks on the Fourth of July. While it can be a sight and sound extravaganza, it's deadly dangerous. According to the National Weather Service, an average of 54 people die of lightning strikes each year while many more are permanently injured. Many people are struck while enjoying an outdoor activity like golf or baseball.

The peak season for lightning storms is hot summer, but lightning can occur any time of year. Because lightning may travel as far as 20 miles before touching down, the minute you hear thunder you are at risk, even though the sun is shining and there's not a cloud in the sky.

Protect yourself from this bolt from the blue

Thunder is the result of the heat of the lightning heating the air around it. Since sound travels more slowly than light, you may see the lightning flash before you hear the bang of thunder. The minute you hear the grumble of thunder in the distance, start seeking shelter in a safe, sturdy building or in a car with a hard top. If the delay between the flash and the bang is less than 30 seconds, move quickly to safety.

Extremely dangerous places during lightning storms are open fields and tops of hills, under a tree or any tall object, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, stadium bleachers, metal fences and any water including swimming pools.

Once you're safely sheltered, avoid using any electrical appliance, phone or computer with a cord. That's because lightning, which follows the path of least resistance to the ground, will jump to the best conductor of electricity it can find, often metal. All the power behind the strike can run into the building through electrical and cable TV wiring. It's the same for water pipes. Wait for 30 minutes after the storm is over to take a bath or shower, wash your hands or do the dishes. Also stay away from surfaces that conduct electricity such as metal doors or window frames. If you don't, you could get the shock of your life!

Lightning flash facts

  • Every year, the Earth experiences more than 100 lightning bolts per second. At any given time there are about 1800 thunderstorms occurring. A typical lightning bolt can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit-five times greater than the temperature of the sun's surface.
  • You can approximate a storm's distance by counting the seconds between the flash and the thunder. Divide that number by five and the result is the number of miles away the storm is brewing. For example, 30 seconds between, divided by five, tells you that the storm is six miles away. You should wait for 30 minutes after the storm has passed to resume your outside activities. You can actually hear thunder about 12 miles from its starting point.
  • Sometimes glass forms when lightning hits sandy soil.
  • The state of Florida has twice as many lightning injuries as any other state in the United States.
  • Most people struck by lightning survive, but they often suffer serious and sometimes permanent injuries such as memory loss, impaired hearing or chronic pain.
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