UK lightning warning: What you should NOT do during a storm – including washing your hands

Thunder, lightning and rain have struck the UK, with warnings in place for storms continuing into Wednesday night. The Met Office has warned of possible flooding, travel delays and possible power cuts. So what should you do to stay safe?

Thunderstorms present significant danger, not least due to the risk of lightning strikes.

A lightning bolt carries around 20,000 – 30,000 amps of electrical current when it makes contact with the ground – That’s 2,300 times more electricity than that used to power your washing machine.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, between 30 and 60 people are struck by lightning each year in Britain and about three of these are fatal.

While your odds of being struck by lightning are low, it’s wise to make sure you know how to protect yourself when a storm strikes.

Here is the Met Office guidance for staying safe:


  • Unplug all non-essential appliances, including the television, as lightning can cause power surges.
  • Seek shelter – when you hear thunder you are already within range of where the next ground flash may occur. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the centre of a storm.


  • Avoid using a cabled phone – telephone lines can conduct electricity.
  • Avoid using taps and sinks – metal pipes can conduct electricity. That means no showers or handwashing!
  • Get inside as quickly as possible if you’re outdoors.
  • If you’re outside and can’t get indoors, avoid water and find a low-lying open place that is a safe distance from trees, poles or metal objects.
  • Be aware of metal objects that can conduct or attract lightning. This includes golf clubs, golf buggies, fishing rods, umbrellas, motorbikes, bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, pushchairs, wire fencing, tent rods and rails.
  • If you find yourself in an exposed location, squat close to the ground, with hands on knees and with head tucked between them. Try to touch as little of the ground with your body as possible, do not lie down on the ground
  • If you feel your hair stand on end, drop to the above position immediately. This means static energy is filling the air and lighting is about to strike. Remember, even if you’re not hit directly, you can still be in danger as lightning leads to a huge amount of electricity in the surrounding area.
  • If you’re driving during a storm, you should wind up the windows and stay inside your car.


  • Avoid downed power lines or broken cables.
  • If someone is struck by lightning, they often suffer severe burns. The strike also affects the heart, so check if they have a pulse. You aren’t at risk of being electrocuted from touching a person who has been hit.

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