6 Things You Should Never Do Dur­ing a Light­ning Storm

The Star (St. Lucia) - - HURRICANE SUPPLEMENT -

When it comes to thun­der­storm safety, you might take the age-old ap­proach of stop­ping what you’re do­ing and shut­ting off all elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances in your house. But does this re­ally re­duce the risk of light­ning en­ter­ing your home, or is it sim­ply an old wives’ tale?

While it isn’t nec­es­sary to go to such ex­tremes as to turn off ev­ery­thing (lights in­cluded) and sit stone still in the dark, you don’t want to get caught do­ing any one of the fol­low­ing. 1. DON’T WASH DISHES, BATHE, OR DO LAUN­DRY. One of the ways light­ning en­ters a struc­ture af­ter strik­ing it, is by trav­el­ling through plumb­ing. Metal pipes for wa­ter and sewage are not only ex­cel­lent con­duc­tors of elec­tric­ity, but the wa­ter they carry can be laden with im­pu­ri­ties that also help con­duct elec­tric­ity. If this was to oc­cur, say, while you are us­ing a faucet/tap it’s pos­si­ble you could get elec­tro­cuted, so don’t chance it! Con­sider it the per­fect ex­cuse to get out of do­ing your chores, at least mo­men­tar­ily. 2. DON’T TALK ON A LANDLINE TELE­PHONE. Nearly any­time is a good time for a chat, ex­cept dur­ing a thun­der­storm. If a bolt of light­ning were to strike a tele­phone pole, it could cause an elec­tri­cal surge to shoot through the phone lines, into your phone hand­set, and ul­ti­mately into your body by way of your ear pressed against that hand­set. Be­cause the dan­ger of be­ing elec­tro­cuted over the phone comes from light­ning’s abil­ity to travel through out­door wiring, both cell phones and cord­less phones are gen­er­ally safe to use.

One ex­cep­tion to this would be us­ing them out­side or in a car, in which case they be­come a haz­ard just like any other metal ob­ject. 3. DON’T WATCH TV OR USE AP­PLI­ANCES. Just as light­ning trav­els through phone wires, it also trav­els through elec­tri­cal wiring, cords, and plugs. Not only is it im­por­tant to un­plug elec­tri­cal items to pro­tect you from get­ting shocked, but also to pro­tect the de­vices them­selves from short cir­cuit­ing should light­ning hit and cause a volt­age over­load.

Lap­tops, tablet PCs, and E-read­ers (Kin­dles, Nooks) are gen­er­ally safe to use in­doors as long as they aren’t plugged into a charger. 4. DON’T STAND NEAR WIN­DOWS OR DOORS. Light­ning is a gor­geous sight, es­pe­cially when arc­ing across a night sky. But as tempt­ing as it is to stand and watch the view, do­ing so can be dan­ger­ous. Light­ning has been known to strike through glass as well as travel through un­sealed cracks, and along doors and win­dow­panes. 5. DON’T DRIVE OR RIDE IN A CON­VERT­IBLE. Think you’re safe from light­ning in any ve­hi­cle thanks to its rub­ber tyres? Think again!

In re­al­ity, it is a car’s metal frame that keeps its driver and pas­sen­gers safe while in­side. Should light­ning strike a ve­hi­cle, its metal frame will con­duct the elec­tri­cal cur­rent around the out­side of the car and into the ground be­low, keep­ing those within the car un­harmed. The fact that con­vert­ibles don’t have metal roofs im­pedes this abil­ity. (The same rings true of var­i­ous makes and mod­els whose frames are man­u­fac­tured out of non­metal parts.) 6. DON’T TOUCH ANY ELEC­TRI­CAL OR METAL OB­JECTS IN­SIDE YOUR VE­HI­CLE. Even if you’re in­side a met­al­topped ve­hi­cle, there’s still a slight risk of be­ing elec­tro­cuted. If light­ning does strike your ve­hi­cle, some of its elec­tri­cal cur­rent can flow through the car’s elec­tri­cal sys­tems and metal ap­pendages, in­clud­ing the ra­dio, cell phone charger, USB con­nec­tors, GPS units, car door han­dles, foot ped­als, and even the steer­ing wheel.

For this rea­son, the most fool-proof way to stay safe is to pull over onto the side of the road, turn on your haz­ard lights, turn off the en­gine, keep your hands in your lap, keep the win­dows rolled up, and wait un­til the thun­der­storm has passed be­fore con­tin­u­ing on your jour­ney or ex­it­ing the car.

--- Tif­fany Means (Thought Co.)

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