The severity of thunderstorms can be unpredictable, especially since they're typically accompanied by a combination of wind, rain, hail, and/or tornadoes. If you’re running errands or traveling in the midst of a thunderstorm, it’s best to take the necessary precautions in order to stay safe.
Is it safe to pump gas during a thunderstorm?
No, it’s not safe. The rain and thunder aren’t necessarily the problem- the lightning is. In the event that the lightning gets close enough to strike a pump or ignite fuel vapors, there can be an explosion or fire.
Nowadays, most gas stations are grounded with lightning rods so that if they’re struck, the energy is diverted into the ground and away from the pumps. In ideal situations, this will prevent an explosion or electrocution. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There have been times when high voltage lightning bolts took the path of least resistance and jumped circuits, causing an explosion anyway.
Take a look at what happened in Florida in 2018.
Even though it’s not common for gas stations to get struck by lightning, it’s better to be safe than sorry and wait until the storm passes before fueling up. It’s important to keep in mind that metal objects conduct electricity. This means that much of the equipment found in gas stations (like propane tanks) are prone to get struck. Your best bet is to stay away from them.
Can you pump gas when it’s raining?
Yes, rain alone isn’t going to harm you or your car while you’re pumping gas. The only concern would be to make sure water doesn’t get into your tank. Opt for a pump that is located under a roof or protect it under an umbrella (it sounds silly, but do what you gotta do!)
Tips for pumping gas safely
- TURN OFF THE ENGINE WHEN YOU GET TO THE PUMP.
This might prevent an accidental fire.
- WAIT OUTSIDE OF THE CAR WHILE THE PUMP IS FUELING.
If you get back in and out of your car, you might generate static electricity which can cause a spark when you go to remove the nozzle from the filler inlet. The spark has the potential to start a fire if it comes into contact with the vapors from the gasoline.
- DO NOT OVERFILL THE TANK.
Prevent gasoline spills by not continuing to add gasoline past the point when the pump automatically stops. After you’re done fueling, leave the nozzle in the filler inlet for a few seconds to prevent dripping outside of the car.
- DON'T LET YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF THE CAR.
While you’re fueling, you should keep your kids inside the car to prevent them from touching something they shouldn’t (especially fuel) and from inhaling gasoline vapors.
- IN THE EVENT OF A FIRE, DO NOT TOUCH THE NOZZLE!
Go get an attendant immediately and find a safe area to wait in while the situation is mitigated.
- DON'T USE FLAMMABLE OBJECTS NEAR THE PUMP.
This is not only common sense but life-saving advice. As good practice, you should also not use e-cigarettes either.
- USE THE RIGHT TYPE OF FUEL.
Although this might sound bizarre, it’s not completely uncommon to be so distracted that you accidentally put in the wrong type of fuel in your car. To prevent this, most pumps have different color nozzles to differentiate the type of fuel: black for gasoline and green for diesel. Still, if this happens to you, don’t start the car. Have your car towed to a nearby mechanic who can drain your fuel tank and lines and pay more attention next time!
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Tips for driving during thunderstorms and rainy weather
It’s dangerous to drive in a thunderstorm- or any storm for that matter. The following tips may help you stay safe when the road conditions are hazardous.
- DO A QUICK CAR CHECK.
Make sure your windshield wipers and lights are working properly. Replace the wipers if they’re leaving a water streak or not clearing the windshield properly. Some people use Rain-X or other rain repellents for their windshield, and many agree that it effectively makes the rain roll over faster than with the wipers. I haven’t tested it myself but you can look here for customer reviews. Also, check that your tires are not balding and have enough tread on them- at least 16th of an inch. To check the tread, grab a penny and stick it in between the cracks of the surface of the tire. If it reaches up to Lincoln’s head, you should be okay.
- DRIVE A FEW MILES UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT.
The combination of precipitation, dirt, debris, and oil leaks on roads creates a slippery surface causing reduced traction on your tires. Strong gusty winds can sway your car enough to make you lose control of your vehicle and other vehicles on the road. Not just that, they can blow debris onto moving traffic and you will have less time to react if you’re driving fast. Some sources say that the speed should be reduced by a minimum of 10 mph and up to half of the posted speed limit (depending on the severity), but I was unable to confirm if this was the law for all of the United States. Contact your local Bureau or Department of Motor Vehicles for your state-specific speed laws with regard to driving in dangerous weather.
- AVOID HYDROPLANING.
Hydroplaning is when there is so much water on the road that your tires ride over it causing them to lose contact with the road and causing you to lose control of the steering of your vehicle. To avoid hydroplaning, reduce the speed at which you’re driving to 30 miles per hour or less if it’s safe to do so. Try not to slam on your brakes, but slow down gently by shifting down gears. Do not make sudden or sharp turns. If you feel your car hydroplaning, take your foot off the gas pedal, reduce your speed slowly and, if possible, do not turn the steering wheel.
- DON'T USE YOUR CRUISE CONTROL.
When you’re in control of the speed of the car (accelerating and decelerating), the weight of your car shifts so it gains better traction even when the road is slippery. Having full control of the speed of your car also allows you to pay better attention to the road and any possible hazards ahead.
- KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND OTHER CARS.
Due to the roads being more slippery, it will take longer for your car to come to a full stop. Prevent getting into an accident by giving yourself enough room between you and the other cars, in case there’s a sudden stop ahead of you or someone cuts you off. Keep extra space between large semi-trucks and trailers since they can produce a higher “splash” and may obstruct your visibility as you pass each other. Sources agree that depending on the road conditions, you should have a distance of six to nine seconds between you and the car in front of you. There’s a simple way to calculate this. Find an immovable object on the side of the road or highway, such as a sign or light post. Locate a vehicle that is passing that object and once they pass it, count “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.” until you pass it as well. Every Mississippi counts for one second. Adjust your distance as needed.
- STAY FOCUSED ON THE ROAD.
Do not get distracted with your phone, the radio, or the people in your car. Accidents happen in a matter of seconds so you must stay alert, especially when driving conditions are less than favorable.
- USE YOUR HEADLIGHTS.
During a storm, visibility is greatly reduced, both by the cloud covering, rain, and power outages. Make sure keep your lights on, no matter what time of day it is, so that other cars can see you, but don’t use your high beams.
- PULL OVER AND WAIT FOR THE STORM TO PASS.
Determine the severity of the storm and whether it’s safe to drive at all. Under no circumstances should you drive into a lightning storm. If you’re able to postpone your commute or even wait for a few minutes, it might save you from a potential accident.
- AVOID DRIVING AT NIGHTTIME.
If it’s raining, visibility is worse in the nighttime than during the day, especially because of the lights shining towards you from oncoming traffic. It’s also more difficult to see hazardous conditions ahead of you, such as large puddles or pedestrians.
Final thoughts on pumping gas during a thunderstorm
Even though the chances of you getting struck by lightning while pumping gas is low, it’s never a good idea to tempt fate.
No one can predict the exact spot where lightning will strike so it’s best to not risk your well-being at all. This compilation of people who captured the moment when they almost got struck by lightning proves my point.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Your life is SO much more important than getting injured because you didn’t wait a couple of hours for the storm to pass. Think safety first- gas up before the storm, or wait until after!
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