6 Things You Should Never Do During a Lightning Storm

PM lightning storm-Arlington, AZ
DeepDesertPhoto/RooM/Getty Images

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 traveling 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, 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 for 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 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 tires? 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 non-metal parts.)

6. DON'T Touch Any Electrical or Metal Objects Inside of Your Vehicle

Even if you're inside of a metal-topped 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.

Now that you know what activities to avoid, here's how to recognize when lightning may be about to strike very near to you.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Means, Tiffany. "6 Things You Should Never Do During a Lightning Storm." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2018, thoughtco.com/things-to-never-do-during-lightning-storm-3444265. Means, Tiffany. (2018, February 28). 6 Things You Should Never Do During a Lightning Storm. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-never-do-during-lightning-storm-3444265 Means, Tiffany. "6 Things You Should Never Do During a Lightning Storm." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-never-do-during-lightning-storm-3444265 (accessed March 23, 2018).