OKMULGEE, Okla. (NEXSTAR) – As if we didn’t feel vulnerable enough in the bathroom, a recent incident in Oklahoma is shedding some light on yet another nightmarish possibility.
Firefighters with the Okmulgee Fire Department were called to the scene of an incident at an apartment building on Wednesday night, after a bolt of lightning traveled through the exhaust vent and shattered a toilet in one of the units.
No one was injured, but the toilet was “severely damaged,” Fire Chief Dewayne Hurt wrote in a statement shared with Nexstar.
An explosion of this type — a toilet being blown to smithereens during a lightning storm — isn’t entirely unheard of, though it appears to be quite rare. One of the only other instances of the last several years occurred in 2019, when lightning struck near a Florida couple’s septic tank, ignited the gases within, and caused one of their toilets to explode.
The lightning that struck the Oklahoma apartment complex took a different route, first striking the roof before coming through a metal exhaust vent and hitting the water within the toilet, according to an Okmulgee firefighter who spoke with Nexstar.
The reaction caused the bowl to blow apart, he said.
Chief Hurt said the lighting also caused a small fire in the attic, which crews extinguished.
Experts say lightning can also travel through plumbing, which is why the National Weather Service and even the CDC advise against using the shower, the tub, or even washing dishes during an electrical storm. Neither mention toilets specifically, but both advise avoiding all pipes or plumbing, while the CDC says to avoid “all water” during a storm.
The NWS’ other tips regarding lightning safety, as well as an analysis of recent lightning fatalities, can be found on the department’s website.