Since lightning can travel through plumbing, “it is best to avoid all water during a thunderstorm. Do not shower, bathe, wash dishes, or wash your hands,” the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention noted.
“The risk of lightning traveling through plumbing might be less with plastic pipes than with metal pipes. However, it is best to avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck,” the CDC added.
That’s not the only danger when you’re inside. Stay off porches and balconies, don’t go near windows and doors, and do “NOT lie down on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls,” the agency said.
Also, do “NOT use anything connected to an electrical outlet, such as computers or other electronic equipment,” the CDC said. “Stay off corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe … if they are not connected to an outlet through a charger.”
Hotter than the surface of the sun
A thunderclap happens when lightning strikes, heating the air around the bolt to as high “as 27,000C, five times hotter than the surface of the sun,” the National Weather Service said.
“Immediately after the flash, the air cools and contracts quickly. This rapid expansion and contraction (create) the sound wave that we hear as thunder.”
Lightning can kill in many ways.
A direct strike is most often fatal, the CDC said, but injuries such as blunt trauma, skin lesions and burns as well as brain, muscle and eye injuries can occur from touching a car or metal object struck by lightning. The current can also travel through the ground, bounce off a person or object, or even stream up from objects near the ground.
You can calculate the distance between you and the lightning, but do it from a safe place so you won’t be struck, the weather service advised.
“Count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, and then divide by five,” with five seconds equalling 1 mile (1.8km), 15 seconds equalling three miles (4.8km), and zero seconds very close, the service said.
Endangered critters right at home in late winter wonderland
Most deaths and injuries occur when people are outside, especially during summer months in the afternoon and evening, according to the CDC.
About 180 people per year are injured by lightning, and 10 per cent of people struck by lightning die each year. Those who work outside are at highest risk.
If you are caught outside, do “not lie on the ground. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly more than 100 metres away. Get inside a safe location; no place outside is safe,” the CDC said.
“Avoid anything that will increase your risk of being struck by lightning, such as being near or under tall trees. If there are no safe shelters in sight, crouch down in a ball-like position: put your feet together, squat low, tuck your head, and cover your ears. But remember, this is a last resort. Seek safe shelter first.”