Queensland was battered by severe thunderstorms back in February this year, but one young Brisbane resident found it a particularly shocking experience because one of the 265,000-plus lightning strikes got him – while he took a shower.
Thankfully, the lad survivedand was later released from hospital, albeit with a rather sore leg. This incident has got many of us thinking, though, about whether or not it’s safe to shower in a storm.
It should be totally safe as long as your water pipes are correctly earthed
Your house will have both water and electricity entering it and the electrical earthing is tied to the earthing of the water pipes, where they both end in a metal stake around 2cm in diameter that’s driven into the ground. This, in theory, makes it safe, but around 15 people are shocked in the shower each year during thunderstorms; how?
No-one knows exactly how it happened, but it’s possible that the metal water pipes had a plastic section so they weren’t earthed fully, leading the electricity in another direction and out of the shower through the water.
Alternatively, the lightning bolt could have hit the water pipe itself near the shower outlet and travelled through to the unlucky bather.
Even more unusually…
A big lightning strike can sometimes cause a huge electrical field that spreads out 360-degrees and this may have happened near the house. If it did, and the water pipes weren’t earthed properly, the field could have passed through the water, the boy and anything else in its way.
In 2005 in Dorringo, 68 jersey cows died in a single lightning strike when it hit a tree 30 metres away and a wave of electricity surged out; three cows were stunned but recovered.
Can you talk on a corded landline phone during a storm?
This isn’t as safe as showering in a storm and you should avoid it; using a cordless landline or a mobile phone is quite safe, however.
You can also use scissors near a window and you don’t have to cover up mirrors, either.
Metal and glass don’t attract lightning; what the lightning is “looking” for is an easy pathway down to the ground so it’ll go for anything that’s standing upright – a building, a tree, or a person who’s standing up and exposed.