View Full Version : Sun, Rain, Rainbows, Crows, Lightning, Thunder, Full Moon Swimming

September 20th, 2005, 01:59 AM
I get to the pool a couple hours before dark and it's been warm and sunny all day, not a cloud in the sky. I'm swimming for a half-hour - 45 and getting good sun, and a fast moving rain cloud comes in and drops some water. A half-hour later one of the best rainbows I have ever seen drapes the entire eastern sky for a half hour. A faint rainbow fights to appear above the brilliant rainbow but never quite makes it. Half the sky is an eerie orange glow and makes one think of the atmosphere on planet Venus. The other half of the sky is a mixture of clouds, some dark, and dimmed sunlight. The entire sky appears low and surreal. It reminds me of the fake skies one sees in various Las Vegas casinos but 1,000 times better, and no more real. A flock of crows dots the entire ceiling and then disappears. Meanwhile, I try to keep my swimming going. The sun has still not set and I think I see a couple flashes of lightning on the distant southward horizon in the direction I am swimming. Fifteen minutes pass and I see a wicked loop of electricity in the sky above. Then the thunder. Another fifteen or so minutes and I'm swimming in darkness. The morons running the pool can't set the timer right despite repeated complaints so I'm swimming in the dark again. I drop backstroke out of my rotation after hitting my head on the side. Now I'm just doing free and fly. As I'm fly swimming the entire completely dark pool lights up off a nasty bolt of lightning. Lots more multi-tiered lightning dances in the sky and booming thunder follows. It's now hours later and I'm hearing a LOT of exploding thunder yet as I type this. Oh, ... the full moon was at the Monday night football game when I got home. They were commenting on the moon (I think it is at its closest and biggest right now) and how hot it was on the field (100)). I don't watch much football so I switched the station and the news was about the threatening hurricane off Florida which puts things in perspective.

September 20th, 2005, 06:15 PM
Judging by your post, I'm assuming you're swimming outdoors.

Next time you see lightning, please enjoy it from the safety of a building, rather than in the pool. If lightning were to hit the pool you'd be history.

The lifeguards should know better, but we don't get much lightning in many parts of California.

(from the former USMS Safety Education Chair...)

September 20th, 2005, 07:00 PM
"Next time you see lightning, please enjoy it from the safety of a building, rather than in the pool. If lightning were to hit the pool you'd be history."

THANKS. The advice is appreciated. I was indeed seriously wondering about the risks. Initially the lightning was far away and I saw only glimpses. There was no rain until after I got home. When lightning struck more above (still at a distance), I was definitely aiming to get out of the pool but I had to wait a good while for the pool shower to free up so I kept swimming. I can't recall of ever hearing about anyone being electrocuted in the water by lightning so I "assumed" (apparently incorrectly) that a pool is no more dangerous than anyplace else (there were plenty of big buildings nearby that should take the hit?). I was also wondering if lightning and water together would be 100 times more deadly (also making me wonder why I haven't heard of it happening). The consolation might be that it would be fast and painless.

Michael Heather
September 20th, 2005, 10:17 PM
To add a small bit of accuracy here, if lightning were to hit the pool while you were in it, you would not be history---- you would be soup.

Bob McAdams
September 21st, 2005, 08:06 AM
One thing to keep in mind is that chlorine makes water an excellent conductor of electricity.


September 21st, 2005, 11:12 PM
Coming from a state where we experience a LOT of lightning....

The latest rules say that you're not even supposed to swim INDOORS if there is lightning outside. Lightning current can enter a building through undergound plumbing pipelines entering the building.

They make us get out of our indoor pool if there is lightning in the area, and they won't let anyone back into the water until 30 minutes after the last visible lightning.

The first time I heard this rule I questioned it. I mean, it's a big pain to get into the pool, do a 10-minute warmup, and get pulled out because someone saw lightning (or heard thunder) outside. And then to sit there for the next 30 minutes or more. Sure enough, though, I did a little Internet research and found this paper from the Journal of Athletic Training:


Bob McAdams
September 21st, 2005, 11:43 PM
I'd be more interested in seeing reference #25 (S. Wiley, "Shocking News About Lightning and Pools," USA Swimming Safety Q 1998;4:1-2), which appears to be the article's only basis for claiming that lightning presents a significant risk for indoor pools.


September 22nd, 2005, 03:10 AM
A couple nights ago I tried to get some stats on swimming injuries or deaths due to lightning but I didn't have good luck. I found few reports that actually named a swimming incident (of course this does not mean it doesn't happen a lot.) At lightningsafety.noaa.gov they have a partial breakdown of 44 lightning deaths they say occurred in 2003 (and I couldn't locate stats for any other year). In it, two brothers got hit by lightning while swimming and one of them lived. Another website says roughly 100 people a year in the US are killed by lightning (that same website also says don't take a bath or a shower during a lightning storm). The below referenced site says double that (200 die a year).

Here are some of the stats listed at surviveoutdoors.com
* Most lightning strikes occur either at the beginning or the end of a storm.
* Average lightning strike is 6 miles long.
* Lightning reaches 50,000 degrees farenheit, 4 times as hot as the sun's surface.
* A cloud to ground lightning channel can be 2-10 miles long.
* Voltage in a cloud to ground strike is 100 million to one billion volts.
* Lightning is the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazard people experience each year.
* Lightning affects all regions. Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Colorado have the most lightning deaths and injuries every year.
* Lightning is the #1 cause of storm-related deaths.
* Americans are twice as likely to die from a lightning-related death than from a tornado, hurricane or flood.
* The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates there are 200 deaths and 750 severe injuries from lightning each year in the US.
* 20% of all lightning victims die from the strike.
* 70% of survivors will suffer serious long-term affects.
* Annually there are more than 10,000 forest fires caused by lightning.

In the future I'll leave the pool much quicker when I see lightning in the distance. I assumed I would be dead if I got hit which to me, in advance, is a better option than getting seriously maimed (because I wouldn't know about it). However, this now seems a rather bad assumption too. In fact, for all I know, the outdoor pool here could be a perfect place to get maimed since the bolt would most likely hit something nearby (tree or building) but perhaps a (weakened) charge would carry into the pool.

You know how we always say, "You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than [fill in the blank]". I guess lightning hits aren't so rare. The local newspaper today says that there were hundreds of lightning bolts that reached the ground from the storm that went through here Monday and Tuesday (they actually gave an exact number). Nobody got hurt plenty of damage was done. Anyway, how do "they" know how many bolts made it to the ground?

EDIT: I just looked harder at lightningsafety.noaa.gov and I found they have some pdf files to download. In one of the two I downloaded, it has a better breakdown for 2003 which shows five different states that had one lightning death each "in water" (sounds like swimming) for 12% of the total deaths. The other file has state by state deaths from '95 to '04 but I don't see water or swimming mentioned.

September 22nd, 2005, 10:21 AM
gjy: great research! Lots of information I didn't know.

September 22nd, 2005, 01:53 PM
Originally posted by Michael Heather
To add a small bit of accuracy here, if lightning were to hit the pool while you were in it, you would not be history---- you would be soup.

Oh, great, now I have to go change my shirt, cause I spilled Diet Coke on myself from laughing!

Not that it's funny, but it's funny!
[I hope noone gets offended my my sick and twisted sense of humor]