Florida Couple's Toilet Explodes As Lightning Strikes Near Septic Tank: 'Proof Why You Shouldn't Go Near the Bathroom in a Thunderstorm'

A Florida couple were in for quite a shock on Sunday morning when lightning struck the toilet in their Gulf Cove home during a thunderstorm, causing it to explode.

The pair were laying in bed at the time of the strike, which created a loud noise in the master bathroom, WFLA 8 reported.

"It was the loudest noise I've ever heard. It just went BOOM," MaryLou Ward told the news outlet. "We got out of bed and came over here, and the toilet was laying on the floor."

After surveying the damage, the family called local firm A-1 Affordable Plumbing to help clean up the exploded toilet. The company said that the lightning had struck close to the home's septic tank—which combined with the methane gas in feces—led to the exploding effect. They noted that such incidents are very rare.

The couple's next-door neighbor, Charles Allen, said he has now warned his children to be careful of sitting on the toilet during lightning strikes. "I already sent a picture out to my kids and said, 'Don't do it!' Here's the proof why you shouldn't go near the bathroom in a thunderstorm," Allen told WFLA 8.

According to John Jensenius, a lightning expert from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA,) lightning can strike you while standing in the shower or sitting on the toilet.

"There have been documented incidents of people injured on toilets," Jensenius told The Charlotte Observer. "It [lightning] went through the pipes and through the water. If lightning strikes your home, it often finds its way into the plumbing."

Most strikes occur outdoors, but NOAA says that lightning can enter a building in three main ways; a direct strike, through wires or pipes which extend outside the structure, or through the ground.

Once it has entered, the lightning can travel through metal wires, the plumbing and any metal bars in the walls or flooring.

NOAA makes the following recommendations for keeping safe while indoors during a lightning strike:

  • Stay off corded phones. You can use cellular or cordless phones.
  • Don't touch electrical equipment such as computers, TVs, or cords. You can use remote controls safety.
  • Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes.
  • Stay away from exterior windows and doors that might contain metal components leading from outside your home to the inside.
  • Stay off balconies, porches and out of open garages or car ports.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
  • Protect your pets: Dog houses are not safe shelters. Dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes.
  • Protect your property: Lightning generates electric surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike. Do not unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be struck.

It is important to remember that the chances of being struck by lightning are very low—less than one in a million. Nevertheless, lightning is one of the leading cases of weather-related fatalities causing an average of around 30 deaths every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Florida is considered the lightning strike capital of the country given that more than 2,000 people have been injured by the phenomenon in the state over the course of the past half-century.

lightning
Stock photo: A bolt of lightning. iStock
Florida Couple's Toilet Explodes As Lightning Strikes Near Septic Tank: 'Proof Why You Shouldn't Go Near the Bathroom in a Thunderstorm' | U.S.