When it’s raining and thundering outside, chances are lightning is pretty close and there are some places you shouldn’t be for your safety, especially outdoors.
“When thunder roars, go indoors and remain indoors for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder,” the National Weather Service advises in its lightning safety guidelines. The biggest potential damage during a storm is lightning.
You might think that being struck by lightning is only possible if you’re outside and that you’re completely safe as long as you’re at home, but that’s not always the case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
The agency reports that “about one-third of lightning injuries occur indoors.”
And while you may have seen showering advice during a storm trending in the news, there are other activities you should avoid doing at home until a storm passes, too, according to John Homenuk, a meteorologist and founder of New York Metro Weather.
5 activities to avoid at home during a storm
Homenuk, the National Weather Service and the CDC recommend avoiding these activities at home during an electrical storm:
- Have a shower
- washing the dishes
- Standing near windows, doors, porches and concrete
- Touching electronic equipment plugged into a power outlet (ie computers, laptops, gaming systems, washers, dryers, or stoves)
- Use of corded telephones
Stay away from water
As a starting point, Homenuk warns not to be near or in water during a storm.
Showering, bathing or washing dishes can pose a risk if there is lightning near your home.
“When lightning strikes, it generally travels along the path of least resistance, which will often lead to metal that can pass through pipes,” he says. “And obviously that wouldn’t be great if you were in the shower.”
The CDC states that the risk of lightning traveling through plumbing is lower for those with plastic pipes than those with metal pipes.
However, the agency still advises “avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during an electrical storm to reduce the risk of being struck.”
Washing dishes may pose a lower risk than taking a bath or shower because your entire body isn’t submerged in water or directly under a metal shower head while the pipes are running, Homenuk says.
“But still, in general, if you can, you [should] waiting for the storm to pass instead of using water and pipes that can be a path for electricity to travel,” he notes.
These are the safest places to be in and out
Consider these criteria when deciding where to wait out a storm inland, says Homenuk:
- Is the building sturdy?
- Am I far from all the windows?
- Am I close to the interior walls of my home, rather than the exterior walls?
But if you’re caught outside in a storm, make sure you’re not near water, near or under a tree or on tall objects, he adds. These locations make you less safe during a storm.
Also, if you can’t get home during a lightning storm, your car can provide some security,
“It’s a good secondary option,” he says. “But if there’s a store or another building you can get to that’s not your house, that’s a good option, too.”
Homenuk regularly hears that parking under an underpass during a severe storm poses a potential risk.
“That’s not safe. In fact, when there are strong winds, the winds can be stronger and more dangerous below these underpasses because they can go faster,” he says. “It also creates a huge traffic hazard.”
And if you see flooding, don’t try to drive through it because your car could get stuck, Homenuk warns. It can be much deeper than it seems.
Above all, if you can do it safely, Homenuk says “trying to be indoors during a storm is the best.”
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