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Scientist explains why you should never shower during a thunderstorm

Daisy Phillipson

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Scientist explains why you should never shower during a thunderstorm

We all know it’s important to stay indoors when lightning strikes - but did you know there are certain things to avoid even when you’re in the safety of your own home?

As well as steering clear from doors and windows, a scientist has explained why you should never shower or take a bath if you hear thunder rumbling in the distance. 

With post-heatwave weather causing storms in parts of the UK and more set for the coming weeks, James Rawlings, Physics Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, decided to share the warning to ensure Brits stay safe. 

In a post shared on The Conversation, he pointed out that while your chance of getting struck by lightning is incredibly low, 24,000 people are killed by lightning each year and a further 240,000 are injured.

Although most know to avoid standing under trees or playing golf, as said by Rawlings, a lot of people don’t realise that it could be dangerous to take a bath, shower or even wash the dishes. 

“The most useful advice for a thunderstorm is: when thunder roars, go indoors,” he said. “However, this does not mean you are completely safe from the storm.”

Explaining why, he wrote: “Unless you’re sitting in a bath outside or showering in the rain, you’re incredibly unlikely to be struck by lightning. 

It's best to avoid this when it's thundering outside. Credit: Unsplash
It's best to avoid this when it's thundering outside. Credit: Unsplash

“But if lightning strikes your house, the electricity would follow the path of least resistance to the ground. 

“Things such as metal wires or water in your pipes provide a convenient conductive path for the electricity to follow to the ground.

“The shower provides both of those things (water and metal), making it an ideal path for the electricity to take. It could turn that nice relaxing shower into something much less relaxing.”

This is backed up by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests to avoid all water sources during a storm as lightning can ‘travel through a building’s plumbing’.

The physics professor went on to outline other risks, including standing, leaning or lying on concrete. 

“While concrete itself isn’t that conductive, if it has been reinforced with metal beams (called ‘rebar’), these can provide a conductive path for the lightning,” he added.  

It's better to be safe than sorry. Credit: Unsplash
It's better to be safe than sorry. Credit: Unsplash

“Also avoid using anything plugged into an electrical outlet (computers, TVs, washing machines, dishwashers) as all of these can provide pathways for the lightning strike to take.”

And if you’re wondering when it’s safe to get back in the bath (or go back to leaning on a concrete wall), Rawlings recommends waiting until half an hour after hearing the final thunderclap.

He concluded: “Thunderstorms usually like to save a big one for the end, and you don’t want to end up part of the fireworks!”

Featured Image Credit: John Sirlin/Alamy Combine Harvester/Alamy

Topics: Weather, UK News, Science

Daisy Phillipson
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