Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Photo by Ellie Hamilton, Mackinac Bridge, MI, July 2004

Fe-lady posed one of those questions that ought to be tested on "Mythbusters:" Is there really a risk of being struck by lightning if you're swimming in an indoor pool during a thunderstorm? Personally I think the chance is about as remote as getting struck by lightning. There are some thoughts in her comments section; maybe go have a look and add your own. I heard, on The Weather Channel, an explanation of the risk of being in the bathtub, shower, sinkfull of dishwater, or on a corded phone during a thunderstorm -- I forget what the details were but the consensus was "don't do it." I've done all of these all my life but I guess theoretically there's some risk.

I have an outdoor lightning story. Journey (picture in my sidebar) and I run on roads around a lake in the summer. There are spots every couple miles where I take her down paths to the lake for a drink and a swim. She anticipates these cool-off breaks, knows when we're getting close to the pull-off spots, and pulls me down them, she's so eager. She goes splashing into the water like a boat being launched off a ramp.

One day last summer we were out running when a storm came up. We were on mile 3 of an 8-miler, so I didn't bother going home... we were already out in it and by the time I could get home it would be over. Journey had enjoyed her pit stop at 2 miles. When we approached the 4-mile stop point, it was pouring rain and there was a lightning and thunder. Journey did not veer off and yank me down the path as usual. She kept her eyes front and kept running. I led her down the path and she just stood on the shore instead of going into the water. No amount of coaxing would get her to take a drink. I tried again at 6 miles (the stop that she had happily gone for at mile 2 before the thunderstorm) and again, I had to urge her down the path, and she stopped at the lake's edge but would not touch it. She knows the commands "Drink" and "Swim" -- didn't usually need commands for them but she knew the words. I told her "Journey, Drink!" I told her, "Journey, Swim!" She sniffed gingerly about 6 inches above the surface, her feet still planted on the ground. She would not obey my words. She would not put a single toe into that lake while it was storming.

Weird. The water must have given off some kind of charge, or something.

Next time we went running, she was exuberant again about her drink/swim stops, as usual.

There was a funny line in a movie, "Cats and Dogs" I think. The dogs were discussing how to take over the world from the humans and one said, "Humans are actually a very primitive species... they can't smell fear, they can't sense earthquakes..."

And, I guess, they don't know to stay out of the water when there's lightning.

IF there's any danger in an indoor pool... Guess public-pool-owners can't take the chance.


nancytoby said...

I was knocked unconscious by lightning in New Mexico. I wouldn't stay out in it now.

I don't think I'd pay much attention to it if I were indoors, though.

Kranky C Dale said...

it use to irritate me sooo much whenever the Y would close down the pool whenever there was the mere hint of lightning... i've just grown to accept it and swim in the morning when the chance is slimmer....

Fe-lady said...

Smart Journey you have there! I would listen to my dog before I would listen to the ditzy guards we have at our pool! :-0

Vickie said...

I actually question the same thing, BUT at my Y, the pools, which are surrounded by glass, are CLOSED whenever there is lighting within 50 miles. Apparently there is enough risk that this is one of their regulations and they can't take a chance.

The other note about lightening. Last summer a group of us were riding when a lighting storm came up. Having nowhere to go but onward, we continued riding, watching the lightning off in the distance. Two things I found out after the ride. (1) a barn less than 10 miles from where we were riding had been hit and set on fire; (2) that lightning poses a risk anywhere within 50 miles of where it hits.

So that's apparently the story behind indoor pools being closed during lightning storms and a lesson I learned last summer.

Oh, and that's one smart dog. Trust an animal's instincts every time!