A thunderstorm and your pool are the super-sized equivalent of keeping your hairdryer away from the bathtub. Electricity and bodies of water just don’t mix. Lightning often strikes water, and water conducts electricity. That means that the currents from a lightning strike can seriously injure you. In fact, it can even kill you. This is why, when you hear thunder or see lightning, it’s a good idea to avoid the pool, beach and any other large body of water.
You should be aware of any and all water safety risks, whether you are in the pool, ocean or a nearby lake. Being mindful of the weather before a dip can be the smartest move you make!
Why Water and Lightning Are a Bad Combination
Swimming during a thunderstorm is extremely risky behavior. When lightning strikes, it often hits the tallest thing in the vicinity. While this can be something like a tree or a phone tower, the highest point can also potentially be you. A swimmer’s head protrudes from the water, presenting a potential target for lightning to strike.
Even if it doesn’t hit you directly, a lightning strike on nearby land can spread throughout the surrounding ground. Therefore, even standing next to water during a thunderstorm can be dangerous. A recent report found that, of lightning-related deaths, 46% of the people were fishing and 25% of them were on the beach.
Know When to Avoid Water
To prevent a thunderstorm-related injury, it is important to know when and how to avoid coming into contact with lightning. First off, thunder can be heard from about 10-15 miles away. Often, lightning follows shortly after. Though lightning is typically unpredictable, your best course of action is to be prepared and act cautiously when the weather gets dicey.
Keep an eye on the weather and check the weather forecast before heading to the beach or pool. Any time you hear thunder, or see lightning, you should get out of the water and into a safe place.
What to Do When You See Lightning
As we mentioned above, when bad weather is first detected, you should seek safe shelter nearby. Your best course of action is to get yourself inside. Pavilions, which are present near many pools and parks, should not be considered “indoors” unless they have four walls.
One more thing to keep in mind is that when you leave the water, you are “taller.” This presents a higher target for the lightning to strike. This is especially true since you will also be wet when you exit the water. This makes you a prime bullseye for lightning to hit. While in the water, make a plan for shelter and then act quickly.
You should not enter or approach the water again until all signs of thunder and lightning are completely gone. All water-related activities should be avoided until at least thirty minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard. It is better to be safe than sorry! When a half-hour passes without new thunder, you can consider it safe to re-enter the water. Do so cautiously, and keep an ear out for any additional signs of thunder or lightning risks.
Swimming can be great fun, but it is not worth the risk when potentially dangerous weather is looming. It always pays to get ahead of the forecast and plan your water activities accordingly. To learn more about the dangers of electricity and water, please read our blog about understanding the dangers of electric shock drowning.