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Showering in a storm is perfectly safe, as long as your house is wired correctly

Monday February 12, 2018 - 11:42 EDT
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A lightning display above Burleigh Heads, looking towards the Gold Coast during a storm on February 11, 2018. - ABC

South-east Queensland was absolutely smashed by severe thunderstorms on Sunday night.

There were more than 265,000 lightning strikes, .

Queensland Ambulance said the boy was conscious and breathing after the incident, but he was taken to the Prince Charles Hospital with leg pain.

We all know not to head outside in a storm, but are you actually at risk in your own bathroom?

We asked Australia's favourite scientist — Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.

Showering in a storm should be perfectly safe

Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane, Dr Karl said if your water pipes are earthed properly, you've got nothing to worry about.

"You have water coming into your house, you have electricity coming into your house and the earth of the electricity is tied to the earth of the water pipes," Dr Karl said

"They're both going to a stake, the size of the diameter of your thumb that's hammered into the ground, so definitely [showering during a storm] should be safe."'

And he'd be willing to back up his advice.

Dr Karl said he'd absolutely jump into the shower during a storm.

So why did the Brisbane boy get shocked?

We don't know the exact circumstances of the incident yet, but Dr Karl said there could be a couple of explanations.

"They might've had, for example, instead of full metal pipes, there may've been a plastic section so that way the water pipes were not earthed properly and he could've got a shock that way. [The lightning] could've hit the water pipe and then come through and hit him," he said.

Or it could have been something a little more out of the ordinary — a massive electrical field spreading out in all directions after a lightning strike that happened to pass through the boy on the way because his house wasn't earthed properly.

He said a whole herd of cows died at Dorrigo in northern New South Wales despite being 30 to 40 metres away from a tree that was struck by lightning.

What about talking on the phone during a storm?

There aren't too many of them around anymore, but you should never talk on a corded phone during a storm.

But a cordless home phone or a mobile are completely safe.

As is, weirdly enough, using scissors near a window during a storm.

"The metal does not attract the lightning," Dr Karl said.

"The lightning comes down and is going stutter, stutter, stutter, about 50 metres at a time and each time it stops ... it looks around and tries to find the lowest resistance pathway to the ground. If you happen to be standing up and your head is close, it'll go for you.

"It doesn't matter if you've got metal of not."


© ABC 2018

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