Lightning Indoors | Outside My Window


Lightning strike (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We all know it’s unsafe outdoors in a thunderstorm but did you know that lightning can be dangerous indoors, too? It depends on what you’re doing.

When lightning strikes a building it follows the quickest path to the ground. If the building has ample lightning rods it follows their lead. Otherwise it travels through the plumbing, wiring, metal door jambs, even the metal rebar inside concrete. If a building doesn’t have plumbing or electricity it’s not safe during lightning.

Here are indoor lightning safety tips from weather.gov (paraphrased):

  • Don’t touch any electrical equipment unless it’s completely cordless. Anything that’s plugged in is bad.
    • A cellphone or cordless phone is OK, but not a landline that’s got a cord.
    • A laptop is OK if it’s not plugged into any wires, not even the charger.
    • Don’t run around unplugging everything while the storm’s in progress. Lightning could strike while your hand is on the cord.
  • Avoid the plumbing. Lightning can travel in water. Don’t take a shower, wash your hands, etc.
  • Stay away from the windows, not because lightning will come through the window (it won’t), but because it will explode the glass if it hits, creating lots of flying glass.
  • This one is the hardest: Avoid metal structural components including metal window frames, door jambs, and concrete rebar. If you’re in a concrete building good luck!

Of course it goes without saying that carports, porches and balconies are not safe because they’re outdoors. Cars are safe, but only if the windows are closed.

Read some hair raising lightning stories (pun intended) in this vintage article: Looking Forward to a Little Less Lightning.

p.s. Check out the Real Time Lightning Map to see where lightning is striking right now!

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)