Thursday, May 12 2022

(NEXSTAR) — As if we didn’t feel vulnerable enough in the bathroom, a recent incident in Oklahoma highlights another nightmarish possibility.

Firefighters from the Okmulgee Fire Department were called to the scene of an incident at an apartment block on Wednesday night, after a bolt of lightning went through the drain pipe and shattered a toilet in one of the units.

No one was injured, but the restroom was “severely damaged,” Fire Chief Dewayne Hurt wrote in a statement shared with Nexstar.

The lightning first struck the roof of the apartment complex before passing through a drainpipe and hitting the toilet, officials said. (Okmulgee Fire Department)

An explosion of this type – a crumbling toilet during a thunderstorm – is not entirely unheard of, although it does seem quite rare. One of the only other cases in recent years occurred in 2019, when lightning struck near a Florida couple’s septic tank, ignited the gases inside and blew up one of their toilets.

The lightning that struck the Oklahoma apartment complex took a different path, first hitting the roof before going through a metal exhaust vent and hitting water in the toilet, a firefighter says from Okmulgee who spoke to Nexstar.

The reaction caused the bowl to explode, he said.

Chief Hurt said the lighting also caused a small fire in the attic, which crews extinguished.

Experts say lightning can also pass through plumbing, which is why the National Weather Service and even the CDC advise against using the shower, tub, or even washing dishes during an electrical storm. Neither specifically mentions toilets, but both advise avoiding all pipes or plumbing, while the CDC says to avoid “all water” during a storm.

Further NWS guidance regarding lightning safety, as well as an analysis of recent lightning fatalities, can be found on the department’s website.

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