Lightning is one of the most spectacular displays of power in nature, and even though it is typically devastating to the things that are struck by it, most people don’t worry about it too much because getting struck by lightning directly is incredibly rare.
That said, it does happen, and most people instinctively take cover indoors when storms approach.
Watching the storm through a window while you are snug and safe inside is a pleasant experience, for sure, but are you really as safe as you think you are? Is it possible that lightning could strike you through a window?
Yes, lightning can potentially strike you through a window. Lightning can strike occupants of a building directly through an open window or indirectly if it strikes near a window or other infrastructure in the house.
Turns out you shouldn’t get complacent just because you made it inside before the storm opens up on you.
Lightning is indeed incredibly powerful, and if you don’t follow the right safety procedures, it can still get you while you’re indoors, and that includes through a window whether or not it is open.
There are plenty of dangers associated with lightning even while you’re inside, so keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know.
Can Lightning Strike You Through a Closed Window?
Yes, it sure can. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you’re standing behind a closed window.
I hear about this misconception all the time: some people think that just because the glass window in your house is closed they’re somehow protected from lightning.
A fair assumption: glass is an excellent insulator…
But I’ve got bad news for you: Household glass is not so great an insulator that it will save you from lightning.
Lightning can strike a window directly, the window frame, or just near a window, and jump to you if you are standing near the window inside.
There are also other vulnerabilities built into a typical home in the form of infrastructure they can serve as conduits or pathways for the monumental charge of lightning to follow.
Can Lightning Strike You Through an Open Window?
Yes, it can. Although it’s unlikely to do so in lieu of striking some higher part on the house or a more conductive object, it is entirely possible that lightning could hit you directly if you’re standing on the back side of an open window.
The frame, whatever it’s made of, is not a shield in any way.
What Will Happen to a Window Hit by Lightning?
Pretty much any window that is struck directly by lightning is not going to survive intact. Whether it is glass or polycarbonate, it’s going to be damaged by the lightning strike.
A lightning strike generates immense heat instantly, and combined with the shockwave that is generated (that’s the thunder) it is highly likely that the glass will shatter.
Polycarbonate and other non-glass windows and transparent surfaces are likely to melt or be damaged in some other way even if they don’t shatter.
Warning: A Near Lightning Strike Can Shatter a Window into Fragments
This brings up a fairly obvious and less severe but still significant hazard associated with lightning striking windows or striking near them: glass windows will shatter into fragments, and potentially be propelled by the pressure wave of the sonic boom created by the lightning strike.
If you’re standing at the window, or even worse if you’ve your face pressed up against the glass watching the storm outside, you can be severely injured even if you aren’t shocked or electrocuted by the lightning.
If you haven’t picked up on the drift of this article by now, you need to stay well away from windows when it is storming outside if you want to stay safe.
Caution: Lightning Can Still Harm You Elsewhere Inside Your House
So, if you are safely inside a well-built structure and you stay away from the windows during a thunderstorm you are truly safe from lightning, right?
Maybe not. Actually, definitely not! Lightning can still get to you by several other routes.
For starters, lightning will readily follow the path of electrical wiring and all connected devices and equipment if a house is struck.
This is a major problem if you’re holding for handling anything that is wired like a landline telephone, a plugged-in vacuum cleaner, a wired appliance, a remote control, and so forth.
Another major consideration is the plumbing in the home. Lightning can easily course through metal plumbing, or follow the water that is inside the plumbing.
Don’t be fooled by so-called debunking of myths regarding showering during a thunderstorm: you absolutely can and potentially will be shocked by lightning the strikes your house if you are getting a shower, washing your hands, taking a bath or doing anything like that.
Ideally you won’t even touch a faucet during a thunderstorm.
Also, any other metallic surface or metal hardware in your home will prove to be an especially good conductor and a possible path for the lightning to follow as it seeks the ground.
Keep that in mind as you move around your home during a storm. Avoid piping, ducting, heavy metal, hardware on exposed timbers or walls, etc.
How Can You Stay Storm Safe When Inside?
Staying truly safe inside your home when a storm is raging outside is a matter of avoiding the hazards and danger areas described above.
- Avoid directly touching any plugged-in electronics for the duration of the thunderstorm while lightning is in the area. This includes cordless devices that are plugged into chargers. Wireless devices that aren’t plugged in are still safe to use.
- Avoid taking a bath, getting a shower, doing dishes, swimming in an indoor pool and even washing your hands if you can avoid it.
- Stay well away from any metal hardware in your home, particularly hardware connected directly to the frame of your home, or to plumbing or electrical systems.
- Stay off of bare concrete floors: concrete does conduct electricity, and that means it can conduct lightning!
- Stay away from windows and keep all doors closed.
Can Lightning Strike Through a Car Window?
Yes. Again, lightning can potentially strike you right through the glass of a car window as described above.
However, this is highly unlikely in practical terms: Glass is a great insulator as mentioned, and combined with the conductive nature of the car’s bodywork lightning is far more likely to strike the vehicle and then ground out.
That said, if you have the window open it isn’t completely out of the question that lightning might strike you right through the opening.
So roll those windows up any time a storm is drawing near- even before it starts to rain! Keep in mind that lightning can strike a significant distance away from any rain that is occurring; don’t be complacent.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.