We have all heard the myths related to weather conditions. They are often absurd and hard to believe. How much weight does the myth “Do not watch TV during a thunderstorm” hold? Let us find out. 

Watching TV during a thunderstorm can be unsafe. This is only possible if you are using an older TV that does not have built-in surge protectors or MOVs, which might save it from the electric surge. If your TV is equipped with these, you are good to go. However, if the thunderstorm is very intense, unplugging the TV might be an idea to consider. 

For more information, please continue reading this article. 

Thunderstorms And Electric Discharge

Thunderstorms are weather phenomena involving the development of convective clouds, which can produce lightning, thunder, and heavy rainfall. They also include warm, moist air pockets that rise and cool when they reach a lower temperature. 

These form clouds, which develop into bigger clouds that produce electric charge and form lightning and thunder. 

Lightning is a visible electrical discharge between two cloud parts with an opposite electrical charge. This can also exist between the cloud and the ground. The particles in the cloud gain charges and positive and negative charges are separated due to the movement. 

When the electrical potential difference between two regions within the cloud becomes large enough, the air between them breaks down, and an electric discharge in the form of a lightning bolt is produced.

Is Watching TV During A Thunderstorm Safe?

You may wonder why something as mundane as watching TV can be a matter of concern during a thunderstorm. This concerns the electric wires attached to the TV and the electric discharge that can be produced in thunderstorms. 

Hence, watching TV during a thunderstorm could be unsafe and run the risk of an electric shock to people around the device. This is due to an “electric surge” or a “power surge.” 

Electric Surge

The power surge occurs when lightning strikes the building in which you are watching TV. As the lightning bolt hits, it sends a surge of electricity through the entire electricity system of the building. This is felt in the wiring and all the devices plugged into electrical outlets.

The power surge that is experienced can lead to significant damage to devices and wires. This overloads the circuits of devices, makes them malfunction, and fail. When the power surge is too high, these devices or appliances may explode, catch fire, or cause short circuits. 

Do All TVs Put You At Risk?

Fortunately, not all devices or appliances risk being damaged and causing you harm when they experience an electric surge. In the case of TVs, modern TVs are equipped with built-in surge protection that helps to protect them from electric surges during thunderstorms. 

The surge protection most commonly found in these TVs is called metal oxide varistors (MOVs), which are designed to divert excess electrical energy away from the TV in the event of a power surge. MOVs are made of semiconductor material with high electrical resistance but can become conductive when exposed to high voltage levels, such as those generated by lightning strikes.

When a power surge occurs, the MOVs in the TV activate and divert the excess electrical energy away from the TV’s sensitive components, helping to protect them from damage. In addition to MOVs, many modern TVs also feature built-in surge protection circuits that can further help to protect against power surges. 

Hence, you must figure out whether the TV you are using has these features or not. This is the time to whip out that manual and thoroughly read it because your safety depends on this. 

Safety Measures With Electronic Devices During A Thunderstorm

While all these device additions may sound like they will protect you, extra caution is still needed. Follow the safety measures below to protect yourself and your family from electric shocks during a thunderstorm. 

  • Unplug electronic devices – The safest way to protect them from power surges during a thunderstorm is to unplug them from the socket. This includes TVs, computers, gaming consoles, and kitchen appliances.
  • Use surge protectors – Surge protectors can help to minimize the risk of damage caused by power surges during a thunderstorm. They divert excess electrical energy away from connected devices and appliances. Getting the right surge protectors; ensure they are properly rated for the devices you will be protecting.
  • Avoid devices that require a direct electrical connection – Avoid using devices that require a direct connection during a thunderstorm, such as corded phones, hair dryers, and electric razors. It is better to be safe. 
  • Keep devices away from windows – Keep your devices away from any openings like doors and windows. This is to ensure that they are not in the range of lightning. 
  • Do not touch electrical devices with wet hands – Avoid touching electronic devices with wet hands or while standing on a wet surface; this increases the risk of electrical shock.
  • Wait for the storm to pass before using electronic devices – Your devices and appliances must be grounded again to use them safely. 

Thunderstorm Myths

Some other thunderstorm myths that are worth busting are discussed below. 

  • Lightning never strikes the same place twice – This is a common myth with no truth to it. Lightning can strike the same place multiple times, particularly if the location is tall, isolated, or made of a conductive material such as metal.
  • You are safe from lightning if you are not standing under a tree – While it is true that standing under a tree during a thunderstorm can increase the risk of injury from lightning, simply being outdoors during a storm can be dangerous. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a storm and travel through conductive materials such as metal and water. Hence, being away from a tree might help, but being under a sturdy building is better and safest. 
  • Thunderstorms only occur in the summer – While thunderstorms are more common in the summer, they can occur at any time of the year. Occurrences of thunderstorms during the winter months are also often noticed in high-altitude areas. 

Final Thoughts

Adequate precaution is the best thing that you can do for yourself. Despite signs of safety, going the extra mile to keep yourself safe is worth it.