Is it Dangerous to Shower During a Thunderstorm?

The answer may surprise you.

When we were younger, we blindly accepted the lesson that you should never shower during a thunderstorm. Our rationale was simple: storms and lightning are dangerous, and so we should abide by all safety precautions to escape potential electrocution.

Looking back, it may seem silly that we were ever so scared of thunderstorms. After all, there’s only a 1 in 700,000 chance of being struck by lightning—much better odds than dying in an accident, like a car crash. As adults, we feel more invincible to thunderstorms, ignoring commonplace safety rules that we used to live by. However, one of the many things you don’t know about thunderstorms is that the small chance of being struck by lightning does not make it safe to shower during a thunderstorm. In fact, showering during a thunderstorm can actually increase your likelihood of being electrocuted, should lightning strike your house.

According to Jeffery Peters, the Lightning Expert for NOAA’s National Weather Service, “If there are thunderstorms in the area and lightning were to hit your home, lightning tends to either follow the wiring in your home or it can follow the plumbing, as it goes toward the ground. So, you don’t want to be using anything that’s associated with the plumbing, such as taking a shower, washing your hands, or doing the dishes.” Instead, Peters suggests keeping a safe distance from faucets and appliances that plug into the walls during a thunderstorm. This will significantly diminish the probability that you will be electrocuted if your house is struck by lightning.

What if my home has a lightning rod?

You may be wondering whether this advice also applies to homes that have lightning rods as well. The short answer is yes—you should never, under any circumstances, shower during a thunderstorm. “While the goal of a lightning rod is to divert the electricity to the ground, there are no guarantees with such a safety measure,” explains David Wally, lead meteorologist at the New York Forecast office. “In fact, plumbing in a home is often grounded where water comes in at the meter,” Wally says. Regardless of whether your home has a lightning rod, Wally conveys that “the National Weather Services advises staying away from plumbing, including sinks, baths, showers, and faucets in fear that if a lightning bolt struck the home’s water pipes, this would electrify the water and any metal objects associated with the plumbing.”

How can I tell when it is safe to shower?

Sometimes, you predict that a thunderstorm is coming from the plumes of charcoal clouds that knit through the sky—or the lightning bolt animation on your weather app. While you now know not to shower during a thunderstorm, it’s important to understand when that storm is actually a threat. The National Weather Service promotes the slogans, “go indoors, when thunder roars,” and “see a flash, dash…inside,” to explain that you are in danger of being struck if you can see or hear the signs of a storm. While the thunder may sound faint or the lightning may appear far away, Peters asserts that “lightning can strike up to at least ten miles away from the storm. Even if it’s not raining yet, you still can be struck by lightning.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Carley Lerner
Carley Lerner is a freelance writer and former editorial intern for Reader's Digest. She is a member of the Class of 2021 at Duke University, where she writes for the school newspaper, The Chronicle.