Keep yourself and your pets safe from “Bath Blasts”!

lightning

What is a Bath Blast and how does it happen?

Here’s my personal experience which happened a few hours ago during the heavy thunderstorm in Subang Jaya this evening:

I was taking a shower (wet from head to toe) and holding the showerhead with my wet right hand when suddenly I saw a bright flash of white light and a huge spark at my hand and felt a jolt so great the showerhead flew off from my hand onto the wet tiles. I wasn’t wearing rubber slippers at all. Was barefoot on the wet bathroom tiles. I felt a pain in my wrist and arm and was stunned for a few minutes. Felt my heart throbbing and pounding so badly, not out of fear but because of the powerful jolt. I examined my arm thinking it would be charred or something but it looked just fine. Just painful, that’s all.

It was a shocking and baffling experience. I thought lightning had come through the bathroom window and struck the showerhead. If so, I would have been electrocuted as I was completely wet and holding the showerhead.

Curious and determined to find an answer, I asked a few engineer friends and they were equally stumped. Lightning carries a billion volts of electricity (up to 20,000 amperes of current), they said, you’re lucky to be alive. I’ve heard of people who survived lightning strikes but I don’t think I’m one of those…

But what actually happened?

Here’s what probably happened: http://www.snopes.com/science/lightningbath.asp 

It’s called a Bath Blast and it happens when lightning strikes your home’s plumbing and travels through the pipes, eventually sparking at the taps or showerheads and giving us a jolt of our lives!

As I recall exactly what happened now, thank goodness I was just holding the showerhead at the precise moment when lightning struck my home’s plumbing. So the lightning went through the copper pipes (our hot water system) and came out through the showerhead. Had I been showering…oh my goodness, I could have been thrown off and even severely injured.

Here are other people’s experiences:

Such injuries are relatively uncommon because one has to be doing dishes or bathing or showering at the precise moment when a bolt hits. However, people have been injured in this fashion.

    • In May 2008, 15-year-old Falicity Wishkeno of Topeka, Kansas, was hit by lightning while taking a shower. Said Wishkeno, “Right when I got in the shower, I heard the thunder hit. I saw this big, white light. I jumped out of the bathtub and collapsed. I had trouble breathing, and I couldn’t feel my legs at all. I felt all this pain in my legs and my whole body.” 
    • In November 2007, a bolt struck a teenager who was washing her hair at her home in Blandford, England. Said Abbie Jackson of the event, “It hit my wrist and basically lit up my arm. The showerhead flew out of my hand.” 
    • In October 2006, a woman in Croatia was struck by lightning while brushing her teeth just as lightning struck a pipe outside the her home. Said Natasha Timarovic of her experience, “I had just put my mouth under the tap to rinse away the toothpaste when the lightning must have struck the building. I don’t remember much after that, but I was later told that the lightning had traveled down the water pipe and struck me on the mouth, passing through my body. It was incredibly painful, I felt it pass through my torso and then I don’t remember much at all.” 
    • In June 2001, Josephine Martine of Deal, England, was blown out of her bath tub by a lightning bolt. The mother of three, who had been soaking in her bath tub during a thunderstorm, was catapulted naked through the air by the force of the bolt, landing on the other side of her bathroom. Said Martine, “I felt a huge kick in my hand and knew straight away it was electricity. In a split second I saw the water rippling. The kick of the electric shock was so powerful I was sort of thrown out of the bath. It was scary, but it happened very quickly.” 
  • In August 1988, as Eleanor Loux of Exeter, Rhode Island, brushed her teeth at her bathroom sink, she saw a bolt of lightning leap from her toilet. The resulting ball of fire then bounced off walls and the ceiling in her bathroom until it dissipated. Surprisingly, Loux was not injured. Her bathroom, however, was another story — the ceiling was cracked and the bathtub had charred rings in it. A utility pole outside her home had been hit by lightning, which sent the resulting charge through neighborhood power lines and metal water pipes.

Read more at http://www.snopes.com/science/lightningbath.asp#o0HSvmCiuhAZf0b8.99

Lesson learnt and here are the tips:

As to how to remain safe indoors during a thunderstorm:

    • Stay away from windows, because lightning bolts can enter the home through cracks around the sides of windows. 
    • Don’t take baths or showers, brush your teeth, do dishes, or in any other way put yourself in contact with your plumbing. If you suspect a leak, prompt seattle water leak detection is essential to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of your property.
    • Stay off landlines. Use a cell phone instead. Landline phones are the number one cause for injuries from lightning inside the home. 
    • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls. 
    • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords. That includes not touching the refrigerator or stove. 
  • Keep windows and doors closed during electrical storms.

Read more at http://www.snopes.com/science/lightningbath.asp#o0HSvmCiuhAZf0b8.99

Hmm…no wonder all the cats sit on cushions during a thunderstorm. They don’t lie on the floor…smart cats!

Bath blasts are probably not as bad as being struck by lightning per se, but it still pays to be careful.

And I thank the universe I survived this bath blast without any injury! Just a bad jolt, a slight pain in my wrist and headache on the right side of my head but only for awhile. Phew! Life is unpredictable…

It can cause shock and even death: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/15/health/15real.html?_r=1&

Some updates on 7th May:

Following the above post two days ago on my (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime experience of a bath blast, I wish to thank all friends and readers for their concern and assure them that I have not turned into a lightning conductor and yes, it is still safe to shake my hands…!

And no, I cannot light a light up bulb nor have I experienced any extraordinary superpowers such as being able to outrun a speeding train or hear high frequency sounds or catch a speeding bullet.

It’s been a blast, folks!

Apart from blurred vision that night, I was back to ordinary-old-me the next morning.

But on a more serious note, I thought I should share the following explanations offered by my friends. These seem the most plausible.

I wish to again, thank all friends and readers for their concern for my wellbeing. Your kindness is most appreciated. The fun-poking is equally appreciated. What is life without laughter! ‘Tis always good to see the lighter side of all things.

Here are the two most plausible explanations and useful advice:

Explanation 1:

You are very lucky to be alive. The lightning has struck your house. However, I think there are two poor conductors that have saved your life. One is the piping in your house. I think, they are made of plastic not steel. PVC are poor conductor of electric. Secondly, the water are treated  water that contain less impurity. Again water are bad conductor and that too have reduced the electric field. If the water are not treated, it would have contained impurities and that will transmit electric field to your body.
Count your blessing. You are have a second chance to live on.
Next time avoid taking a shower during thunder storm.
Also, you may want to engage a contractor to install lightning conductor on your roof. This will bring the lightning charge directly into the earth without harming anyone or any equipment inside the house.
Oh, could the lightning have come through the copper pipes from the solar heater system? Then, the lightning would have carried more electricity – yikes! So yes, maybe it came through the PVC pipes, which reduced the amount of current tremendously.

Explanation 2:

It was the water that saved you. Lightning is caused by a very strong electrical voltage creating a discharge current through the shortest, most conductive path it can from the clouds to the earth. A continuous sheet of water is quite conductive.  It is a common experience with wind turbines, which because of their height tend to get struck by lightning at least once a year, that they do include lightning conductors within each blade, but usually the blades are wet because it is raining and usually the electricity in the lightning runs down the surface of the blade, i.e. through the water layer on the surface, and the blade itself is untouched. In his case, the lightning went past you, not through you.

Another hypothesis (now, this, I like…!):

I’m surprised why your house kena coz your house is not the highest in the neighborhood kan? More logical if it strikes at the basketball post, the tall tree at the playground. Eh..if it strikes at the Stonehenge lagi mystical. See got alien in your vicinity or not?
You are very lucky coz kena strike by lightning yet bad thing never happen.
You got extra power or not ar?? Macam Spider-Man kena bitten by spider jadi Spider-Man.
Come to think of it, Timmy has been going to the playground at night, stalking… Maybe some cat-aliens have landed and have taken up residence in the tardis!!

Stranger things have happened, folks…Beware the invasion of cat-aliens from Planet Cat. Maybe they ride on lightning.

ZAPPP!!! They’re here!

Better start being kind to cats (and their minions, the dogs)!

P.S. On a serious note, to set the record straight, I doubt I was struck by lightning. Lightning merely went through my plumbing and came out through the showerhead I was holding onto. The showerhead is insulated by a plastic covering. And based on the explanations above, the piping and treated water created a large resistance (due to their being poor conductors of electricity and V = IR), thereby reducing the current that came through the showerhead and water, resulting in just a jolt which I experienced. I could have been electrocuted, though, but I was not. Phew!

Suddenly, I’ve understood more physics than in all my years of schooling, so can I make a living as a physics teacher now?


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11 responses to “Keep yourself and your pets safe from “Bath Blasts”!”

  1. mas

    wow!

    thank god that you’re safe.hope you are well now

    thanks for the tips.

  2. Peggy Tiong

    Gosh! That must have been a pretty frightening experience for you! Thank God you are alright.

  3. Yen Ling

    Thank God everything is OK. This is an interesting sharing. I will definitely join the cats on the couch next time.

  4. jasmine ong

    Dear Sis Kah Yein,

    I am so shocked to read this this morning. Thank goodness you are alright. I feel relief to know you were not seriously injured. The devas must have been protecting you. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I will share this with my family and friends.

    Take care and may you be well and safe always.

  5. Nui

    Dear Sis Chan,

    Yes, you are really protected!!! I hope that you are fine and continue your good deed to benefit stray animals.

    Sukhi Hotu!
    Nui

  6. Joy E. Saga

    Gosh! That must have happened to me when I was about 6 years old! I remembered opening the fridge door just as a lightning struck in an afternoon thunderstorm. Felt a massive jolt and numbness. Horrified, I ran crying shouting “Mommy!”. I told her I got struck by lightning. I couldn’t remember what happened after, but I most definitely remember the excruciating pain that travelled from my hands through my body and down to the legs.

    Glad you are okay. Great reminder to all. Did you feel kinda fuzzy after?

    I have been paranoid since. I read up all about lightning and the possible dangers and how to stay safe when I was a kid. I didn’t know what it was called then. I just know I got struck by lightning :p

    Maybe that’s why I am a little crazy sometimes.

  7. chankahyein

    Hi everyone, Yups, I’m well. Thank you for your kind wishes. It was just a big jolt, pain on the hand, an almost negligible headache for a few crazy seconds only. But I did experience slightly blurry vision the whole night. Vision is okay now, just like before.

  8. Szetoo

    Sis Kah Yein,

    Relieved to hear that you are alright with minimal injury. You take care and Sukhi Hotu.

  9. Quay Po

    Hi Kah Yein,
    Gosh! Glad you are okay! What a frightening experience and thanks for so kindly share the tips to avoid it. Keep well and take good care.

  10. Annie Goh

    Hi Sis Kah Yein

    Glad to know that you are alright with minimal injury and thanks for sharing the tips to avoid. Take care and Sukhi Hotu.

  11. leslie guoh

    Just read this by way of educating, Sis KY with Thanks. Just
    imagine the number of people will be saved fr yr sharing this thus those
    who got to learn this. You could have just know yourself but instead you
    take the trouble to let others be wary. Thanks, Lady with Heart of Gold!
    Sure grateful you are none any harmed by this!
    – lg

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