back to article Thunderbolts and lightning very, very frightening as loo shatters, embedding porcelain shards in wall

A lightning strike to a septic tank blew up a Florida couple's toilet over the weekend, sending shards of porcelain and who-knows-what into the bathroom wall. A Facebook post by Yellow Pages-friendly "A-1 Affordable Plumbing inc" detailed the horror, later regurgitated by US news orifices such as USA Today. The couple were …

  1. Alister Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Thumbs up for >foom< and "unplanned porcelain penetration event"

    1. Amentheist
      Joke

      What kind of PPE do I need when risking exposure to UPPE?

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        What kind of PPE do I need when risking exposure to UPPE?

        As a minimum, peepee-resistant PPE

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Coat

        Condoms on everything you use for penetration

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Condoms on everything you use for penetration

          But they taste horrible...

          1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
            Joke

            Re: But they taste horrible...

            but I bet they taste better than Kentucky Jelly.

          2. katrinab Silver badge

            Flavoured condoms are a thing

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              But ribbed condoms don't taste like ribs at all!

      3. Benson's Cycle

        One from Oxford. It seems that if you have a PPE you can remain unaffected while everybody else is covered in shit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe it was bone china.

    3. herman Silver badge
      Devil

      I never thought that aiming Alice at the chalice, or pointing Percy at the porcelain, could be this dangerous!

  2. find users who cut cat tail

    Florida

    Was it necessary to specify where the thing happened? There's only one possible place...

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Florida

      That's what you think...

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Florida

      Actually my first thought on mention of "Thunderbolt" and "Lightning" was that it might have occurred in Cupertino .. or wherever Apple are now located.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Florida

      Actually several states could qualify as the source including West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, etc. So specifying the state is necessary to understand what kind of dimbulb you are dealing with. In the case of Florida, many are snow birds from big cities who know nothing about sceptic systems. In other areas, you have different problems.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Florida

        Whether the victims are dimbulbs or einsteins, neither can repel lightning bolts.

  3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Boffin

    Shocking...

    Surely Floridans should be trying to store said gas to use for green power generation and the like?

    Would leave it less likely to gather in a high enough stoichiometric ratio to leave you caught out...or at least not leave you with your pants on fire.

    That said if it was after some bad gator I'd hope the weather would give it a minute or two.

    (safety glasses because you can never be too careful)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shocking...

      I think it was more brown power, briefly

      :).

  4. Commswonk Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I Learn Something New Every Day...

    The couple were still in bed when the lightning struck, igniting a build-up of methane gas in the tank and blowing out parts of the windows.

    Wow! I never knew that septic tanks had windows.

    1. hakuli
      Coat

      Re: I Learn Something New Every Day...

      Would that make it a "Bowl Shattering of Doom", then?

      1. Aussie Doc
        Mushroom

        Re: I Learn Something New Every Day...

        Sounds like a cool new 'underground' band.

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: I Learn Something New Every Day...

      @Commswonk - "Wow! I never knew that septic tanks had windows."

      Presumably a version of Embedded (in the wall) Windows.

      Not that Windows? You should have said.

    3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: I Learn Something New Every Day...

      Windows IS a septic tank...

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: I Learn Something New Every Day...

        Windows IS a septic tank...

        Now you are insulting to sceptic tanks.

    4. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      Re: I Learn Something New Every Day...

      Did the earth move?

  5. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    So that's why

    In this case, methane gas generated by the processes in the tank ignited, causing the toilet off the master bedroom to explode and "sending porcelain airborne like a missile"

    And the US shitcans the INF Treaty, and prepares to deploy new cami-khazi missiles.. coincidence? I think not. But being Florida, I guess it could have been worse, with alligators or snapping turtles as part of the payload. A good reason to keep dirty bombs tightly regulated.

    (Also Florida. A deadly combination of housing developers doing stuff on the cheap, and snowbirds possibly ending up with off-grid solutions and being unaware they can't just flush & forget. ISTR properly installed septic tanks including stuff like vents to prevent methane buildup & blowback scenarios. But then some of my knowledge wrt Florida came from Carl Hiassen..)

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: So that's why

      Or, apparently, 30-50 feral hogs ... Apparently the country is over-run with them.

    2. Boo Radley

      Re: So that's why

      Upvote for the Carl Hiassen reference. His books were a big part of my decision to move to the Miami/Ft Lauderdale area, from Wisconsin.

  6. Pete4000uk

    Only one thing comes to mind

    Holy c#ap!

  7. Tom Paine Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Ahhhh, August

    ...the few days a year when it's acceptable to sleep at your desk. Unless you work for BA, obviously.

  8. Dwarf Silver badge
    Coat

    Is this the natural definition of a shitstorm ?

    Coat - since any form of PPE has to be better than none.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Sounds like a flash in the pan

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not called the thunderbox for nothing

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        I'm disappointed the headline/article didn't use it.

  11. kain preacher Silver badge

    What a shitty thing to happen

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cloud Processing

    Ahhh, processing on-premise.... there are somethings I don't mind going to the cloud - sewage is one of them

    1. cdegroot
      Thumb Up

      Re: Cloud Processing

      I have a septic tank. I was a bit of a skeptic at first but it's actually fine. Also, I don't need to read the rules of your local sewage company which had, for example, in my previous place a ban on in-sink garbage disposal units ("garburators"). I flush whatever I want and every other year (better safe than sorry) have the thing pumped for less then what I paid for sewage in the city.

      All I still need is one of these outhouses with a garden gnome taking a dump while reading a newspaper to mark the spot where I have to dig up my wife's garden when the truck comes. And, apparently, a lightning rod.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cloud Processing

        I flush whatever I want

        I was under the impression that there is something organic in the tank which digests and breaks down what you put into it. Do you need to be careful about what cleaning products and other chemicals go down your drain, or are the little beasties quite hardy?

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Cloud Processing

          "I was under the impression that there is something organic in the tank which digests and breaks down what you put into it. "

          A bog troll?

        2. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Cloud Processing

          Our local farm shop sells a lot of Ecover for people with septic tanks.

          It isn't just the things in the tank itself that need protection - the overflow goes into the soil.

        3. Sherrie Ludwig

          Re: Cloud Processing

          "I was under the impression that there is something organic in the tank which digests and breaks down what you put into it. Do you need to be careful about what cleaning products and other chemicals go down your drain, or are the little beasties quite hardy?"

          Living on septic system for almost twenty years, no problems. First off, it needs to be a well built one, with venting and a large leach field that you treat like the fragile thing it is, no driving large heavy machinery over it, no digging in that area deeper than planting a few flowering bulbs. Secondly use the toilet paper that disintegrates quickly, not the swans' down extra floofy that turns into a wad of cotton batting, and use biodegradable cleaning products wherever possible. There are packets of the bacteria that you can use to repopulate your system if you have to mess it up (the well needed to have chlorine run through it when we dug the pump up to replace) but I don't usually have to use them. We get the tank pumped about once every two years, couple hundred bucks in my area. Oh, and "flushable" products aren't, not even for city sewer systems, but you knew that, didn't you?

      2. Blergh

        Re: Cloud Processing

        If you don't put too many chemicals down the drain then you don't actually ever need to pump it out. My parents built their house with one 22 years ago and it is still doing fine without any intervention or smell, but they did give it a good starter with a old rotten sheep carcass and I don't suppose most people bother with that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cloud Processing

          My parents built their house with one 22 years ago and it is still doing fine without any intervention or smell

          Meanwhile, down river ..

          :)

      3. Wingtech
        Alert

        Re: Cloud Processing

        You're lucky you know where it is.

        Out here in the sticks, my septic tank is under a neighbouring field. The istructions we have for location is on a line due west of the Telephone Pole by the gate, take 50 paces and the 6-8 feet down.

        OK as long as the pole is there. The guy who built it was a short-arse, so, is it his pace or a sort of standard pace?

        Anyway, designed for zero maintenace and has been functioning for >20 years without any intervention.

        Common round here, but it can all get confusing. Down one road in the village all the old houses had their tanks under the field opposite, so under the road. When they developed the field most of the new owners found that they had someone else's dunny-store under their front garden. In the old part of the village it is common to find the tank under the neighbours garden.

        The perils of rural life, I suppose.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cloud Processing

        I have a septic tank. I was a bit of a skeptic at first but it's actually fine

        So it's more of a sceptic tank then?

        :)

  13. anothercynic Silver badge

    Or...

    Worried septic tank-owning Floridians were advised by Hagadorn to keep their legs crossed during storms and avoid perching atop the potentially deadly thrones to avoid an unplanned porcelain penetration event.

    Or install... methane venting?

    1. FlossyThePig

      Re: Or...

      I think I'll stick with my Victorian cess pit, covered with two sheets of corrugated iron.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Or...

        And a copy of last year's Almanack, of course

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or...

      Or install... methane venting?

      What form would that take? Would it be like on oil exploration platforms, a boom with an always-on flame at the end?

      "Look, it's flaring. Bob had beans again"

      :)

  14. BoldMan

    Makes me think of Blaster Bates and the shower of shite over Cheshire

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOwven0Rt94&feature=youtu.be&t=70

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Beat me to it, a good old precedent for exploding septic tanks - icon fits the mental image he paints.

      I had the honour of hearing Blaster Bates speaking live a few years back - can't have been that long before he died. I can honestly say it is the only time in my life when my sides really have hurt from laughter.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge
      WTF?

      So how far does that date back? Tom Sharpe was wickedly funny on the subject of exploding crap gases back in about 1980-ish (The Wilt Alternative).

      Methinks El Reg is becoming obsessed. Dabbsy has a longstanding tradition of giving us crap, but just a few days ago the BOFH was on the subject, and now this story!

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        @Nick Kew - "So how far does that date back?"

        I recall Spike Milligan wrote about the dangers smoking when the latrines were sanitised with kerosene in one of his books based in WWII.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Was that in "Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall"? Wonderful book. I'll have to read it again some day, if I can find it.

    3. david 12 Bronze badge

      One of my older friends, with his pal, put half a stick of gelignite (lashed to broomstick) down a deep drop toilet. "We saw the owner come out of the house and head towards the dunny. Oh no we thought, he's going to be killed. We're going to jail for the rest of our lives. Then the gelignite went off. A /gout of blue flame/ erupted into the sky, demolishing the outhouse. Followed by a rain of shit..."

      1. swm Bronze badge

        You owe me a new keyboard.

  15. Jemma Silver badge

    Thor...

    Hold my beer...!

  16. AceRimmer1980
    IT Angle

    Unexpected Core Dump

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      ...followed by a brown out.

  17. hplasm Silver badge
    Joke

    *BOOM!*

    OOh! Are you alright?!?

    Er, yes- it must have been something I ate...

  18. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Toilet has gone TITSUP

    Total Innundation of Turds, Shit, Urine and Piss

  19. mics39
    Flame

    Biblical

    Smiting is back! Yeah MAGA!

  20. Benson's Cycle

    Pressure wave

    The methane exploded in the tank, and presumably then the resulting pressure wave (and ignition of methane/air mixture in the pipe) travelled up to the WC. I guess that the surrounding soil stopped the pipe from exploding outward.

    By the time the pressure wave reached the WC it could have been high enough and fast enough to shatter the plumbing before the lid could lift.

    I used to have an old chemistry textbook which demonstrated this. It seemed you needed a long lead pipe which was filled with a carbon monoxide (town gas) air mixture, and which ended in a boiling tube behind a suitable screen. Igniting the gas at one end resulted in a short delay before the boiling tube exploded with a very sharp bang, because the explosion front in the gas reached a thousand metres per second or so.

  21. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Holmes

    Instead of thunderclap, they heard a "thundercrap"

    Sorry, all I could come up with.

    (Once again, El Reg's Sherlock Holmes icon is unexpectantly fitting.)

    1. Outski

      Re: Instead of thunderclap, they heard a "thundercrap"

      No shit, Sherlock? Are you sure?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Relevant?

    Hang on, this is The Register, there's standards to be upheld. I demand to know what the software angle is to this story.

    Oh, hang on a mo...

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Here's The IT Angle - UK-based Specialists Express Drainage Solutions

      AKA EDS & Crapita (Just for good measure).

  23. SImon Hobson Silver badge
    Holmes

    Reminds me of a story an old workmate told me. He was doing up the bathroom, and the new toilet was a tight fit in the socket - the spigot was very slightly larger than on the old pan. So he figured he'd just warm up the plastic socket with a gas torch to soften it.

    As he applied the flame, he heard a bit of a "woomph" down the pipe, but thought nothing of it. A day or two later, a neighbour knocked on the door and asked if their (my ex colleague's) toiler had been doing anything strange ? My ex colleague feigned ignorance of anything unusual as the neighbour explained how he'd been sat on the throne and got an unexpected bidet event at around the time my ex colleague was doing his plumbing !

  24. VikiAi Silver badge
    Go

    Goodness Gracious!

    Great balls of fire!

  25. Montreal Sean
    Coat

    Inquiring mind wants to know...

    Was there a fan, and was it hit?

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