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Is it safe to shower during a thunderstorm?

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(NEXSTAR) – When pounding rain and lightning force you to take cover inside, a warm shower might be an inviting thought, but experts warn it could be more dangerous than you think.

Lightning can travel through plumbing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

It’s not just showers that should be avoided, but all activities that use water from the home’s pipes, including bathing, washing dishes and washing hands.

“The risk of lightning traveling through plumbing might be less with plastic pipes than with metal pipes,” the CDC says. “However, it is best to avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck.”

Just to illustrate how powerful lightning can be inside your home, in May 2022, lightning traveled through the exhaust vent of an Oklahoma apartment building and shattered a toilet in one of the units, leaving the walls and ceiling above it covered in soot.

Here are some other precautions to take when a thunderstorm approaches:

  • You want to take shelter in a fully enclosed building and stay away from windows.
  • Do not use a corded phone, you can use a cordless phone or a cell phone.
  • Do not touch other electronic equipment including computers, hair dryers, game systems and more as lightning can travel through electrical systems.
  • If you’re outside, do not take shelter under a tree. If the tree gets struck by lightning it can go through the tree and into you.
  • Stay out of the water, you don’t want to be in a pool or lake.
  • “Do NOT lie on the ground,” the CDC says. “Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly more than 100 feet away. Get inside a safe location; no place outside is safe.” If you can’t get inside or somewhere safe, stay away from tall trees and, as a last resort, crouch down in a ball-like position, tucking your head and covering your ears.

According to the CDC, about 10% of people die after lightning strikes them, usually from a heart attack.

The U.S. averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities every year from 1989 to 2018, according to the National Weather Service. The odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 15,300, but that probability could be higher depending on the state – strikes are more common in Texas and Florida, for instance – and the amount of work or recreational outdoor activity the person does.

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