Claim: It is dangerous to take baths or go swimming during thunderstorms, and people have been injured or killed while doing so.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, April 2006]
Has anyone ever been hit by lightning while showering? I read your article about people getting zapped while on the phone, which I'd heard about before. But in the shower? I don't know why I find this particularly
Is it true it is dangerous to take a bath or shower in your home during a thunderstorm?
Origins: Although this devastating force of nature (which kills an average of
Lightning strikes into the ground near homes have sent devastating jolts up pipes and into sinks and bathtubs. Metal pipes used in household plumbing provide effective conduits for the massive electrical charges released by even a single bolt.
Such injuries are relatively uncommon in the greater scheme of things because one has to be doing the dishes or bathing or showering in the right (or wrong) place at the precise moment when a bolt hits. However, people have occasionally been injured in this fashion:
- In May 2008, 15-year-old Falicity Wishkeno of Topeka, Kansas, was hit by lightning while taking a shower. Said Wishkeno, "Right when I got in the shower, I heard the thunder hit. I saw this big, white light. I jumped out of the bathtub and collapsed. I had trouble breathing, and I couldn't feel my legs at all. I felt all this pain in my legs and my whole body."
- In November 2007, a bolt struck a teenager who was washing her hair at her home in Blandford, England. Said Abbie Jackson of the event, "It hit my wrist and basically lit up my arm. The showerhead flew out of my hand."
- In October 2006, a woman in Croatia was struck by lightning while brushing her teeth just as lightning struck a pipe outside the her home. Said Natasha Timarovic of her experience, "I had just put my mouth under the tap to rinse away the toothpaste when the lightning must have struck the building. I don't remember much after that, but I was later told that the lightning had traveled down the water pipe and struck me on the mouth, passing through my body. It was incredibly painful, I felt it pass through my torso and then I don't remember much at all."
- In June 2001, Josephine Martine of Deal, England, was blown out of her bath tub by a lightning bolt. The mother of three, who had been soaking in her bath tub during a thunderstorm, was catapulted naked through the air by the force of the bolt, landing on the other side of her bathroom. Said Martine, "I felt a huge kick in my hand and knew straight away it was electricity. In a split second I saw the water rippling. The kick of the electric shock was so powerful I was sort of thrown out of the bath. It was scary, but it happened very quickly."
- In August 1988, as Eleanor Loux of Exeter, Rhode Island, brushed her teeth at her bathroom sink, she saw a bolt of lightning leap from her toilet. The resulting ball of fire then bounced off walls and the ceiling in her bathroom until it dissipated. Surprisingly, Loux was not injured. Her bathroom, however, was another
story — theceiling was cracked and the bathtub had charred rings in it. A utility pole outside her home had been hit by lightning, which sent the resulting charge through neighborhood power lines and metal water pipes.
"When people think of lightning deaths, they usually think of golf," Jensenius said. "While every outdoor activity is dangerous when a thunderstorm is in the area, outdoor activities other than golf lead to more lightning deaths."
Jensenius said the large number of fishing, camping and boating lightning deaths may occur because these activities require extra time to get to a safe place. "People often wait far too long to head to safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation," he said.
- Stay off corded phones. You can use cellular or cordless phones.
- Don't touch electrical equipment such as computers, TVs, or cords. You can remote controls safety.
- Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes.
- Stay away from windows and doors that might have small leaks around the sides to let in lightning, and stay off porches.
- Do not lie on concrete floors or lean againt concrete walls.
- Protect your pets: Dog houses are not safe shelters. Dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes.
- Protect your property: Lightning generates electric surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike.
Anderson, Phil. "Lightning Shocks Teen in Bathroom." Topeka Capital-Journal 10 July 1989. Dunn, Tom Newton. "Million Volt Lightning Strike Blows Josephine Out of Bath." The Mirror. 14 June 2001. O'Connor, Anahad. "The Claim: Never Bathe or Shower in a Thunderstorm." The New York Times. 15 August 2006. Simons, Paul. "Thunderstorms Can Make Lightning Strike Indoors." The [London] Times 23 November 2007 (Features, p. 98). Simons, Paul. "The Hazards of Taking a Shower." The [London] Times. 11 October 2007 (Features, p. 72). Observer-Reporter. "Lightning Bolt from Bowl Narrowly Misses Woman in Her Bathroom." 18 August 1988 (p. 5). Gainesville Sun. "Woman Injured by Bolt of Lightning." 10 July 1989.