how dangerous is swimming in a thunderstorm

How dangerous is swimming in a thunderstorm? Rain and thunder can be disorienting while swimming, and these issues can make swimming dangerous.

While disorientation can be harmful while swimming, lightning is the biggest threat.

Water is a great conductor of electricity, which is bad news for anyone still out in the water during a thunderstorm.

Having fun at the beach or in the pool is even better when you have peace of mind from understanding what to do if an emergency arises.

Swimming during a thunderstorm should be avoided, no matter what type of water you are swimming in. This danger is due to the ability of water to conduct electricity from lightning.

Read on to learn why swimming during a thunderstorm is so dangerous and how you should navigate swimming if you see a storm coming.

How Dangerous Is Swimming In A Thunderstorm?

swim in thunderstorm

Not only is it dangerous to go swimming in a thunderstorm, but it is advised by weather experts that water be avoided during stormy weather.

Technically, you can go swimming when it is thundering, but thunder is caused by lightning. It’s not recommended to be anywhere near the water when a storm is coming in.

The most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm is an open field. However, being in a body of water is a very close second in terms of danger.

Lightning very commonly strikes bodies of water due to the ability of water to conduct electricity.

While lightning strikes are not very common, if you do get stuck, the odds of death or long-term health impacts are fairly high.

Being in a body of water during a thunderstorm is a good way to improve your likelihood of encountering a lightning strike.

Tip: It is important to remember that thunder and lightning can still appear even if it is not actively raining.

A Lot Happens When Water And Electricity Mix

When water and electricity mix, the water molecules provide a great method of conducting electricity. The electricity from the lightning can travel quickly through the water.

The electricity travels quickly due to the minerals dissolved in the water. As a result, that electricity can conduct into your body, and you may be electrocuted.

Swimming in the water while a thunderstorm happens is never a good idea. However, different types of water carry different levels of risk.

water and electricity

Here is what you need to know about the unique features of different types of water when they come in contact with lightning.

Fresh Water

When lightning hits freshwater, it gets conducted throughout the water via the minerals that exist in even freshwater.

The charge usually spreads along the surface rather than penetrating deep into the ocean.

The electricity will be drawn to anything in the water, especially anything sticking out of the water.

So, if you are swimming or in a boat on a lake, you should get back to land if you see a thunderstorm on the horizon.

Salt Water

Saltwater is even better than Freshwater at conducting electricity. This ability is due to the positive and negative ions present in the salt in the water.

A high amount of ions efficiently conducts that lightning.

Saltwater beaches can also provide conditions that lead to more lightning. The warmth from the land can make lightning strikes even more common.

Pool Water

Pools are only slightly safer than other forms of water due to the presence of other objects that can draw electricity.

The water in the pool contains plenty of ions which are great for conducting electricity.

When you are the only thing sticking out of the water, you are much more likely to get stuck.

Unfortunately, some objects that can draw electricity may be made of metal. You should avoid touching those objects after a storm.

Tip: Be careful in indoor swimming pools during thunderstorms as well.

Distilled Water

You are unlikely to come across a pool or lake of distilled water. However, it is worth considering how lightning may affect you in this water type.

This understanding is in the interest of understanding how water conducts electricity.

Distilled water does not contain the minerals and ions that other types of water have. As a result, it is not as good of a conductor of electricity.

However, even if you could create a pool of distilled water to swim in during a thunderstorm, it would not remain safe for long.

The oils from your body would provide minerals and ions to the water. As a result, it would become a better conductor of electricity.

What To Do Instead Of Swimming

If you were thinking of swimming but now there is a storm raging, you should avoid going outside.

Pack up and get indoors if you’re on the beach, as being near a body of water during a thunderstorm is almost as risky as being in the water itself.

Now is the time for activities that are not poolside or beachside.

This thunderstorm is the perfect time to have all that fun you saved for a rainy day.

When To Get Out Of The Water

get out of swimming

If you are happily practicing your breaststroke in the pool or scuba-diving at the beach, and you start to see dark clouds roll in, you may wonder how long until you can stay in the water.

In general, you should get out of the water as soon as the risk becomes apparent.

However, you can also use the sound of thunder and the 30-30 rule to determine how far away the storm is.

Lightning can reach ten miles in any direction. So, you should make sure that you are more than ten miles away from the strike zone.

Do this by counting to 30 after you see a lightning strike. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, then the lightning is within six miles of you.

In general, each mile is about five seconds away. At a certain point, the best choice to make is to get away from the water as quickly as possible.

Tip: Check out the forecast before heading to the beach.

How Far Away Should You Stay From Water During A Storm?

In many cases, you may still be in danger right next to the water during a thunderstorm. This danger exists because you and the ground you are on may still be wet.

The electricity of the lightning can still be conducted just from the water on the ground or your skin after you get out of the water.

stay away beach

For this reason, you need to find shelter that is far from the water once you see the signs of a storm. This shelter needs to be enclosed and covered.

A beach pavilion without walls may not be safe enough. Look for a house, store, or vehicle with a hard roof.

If you can not find shelter, avoid high ground, stay low to that low ground, and do not lie flat on the ground.

Instead, you should crouch down and try to have as little contact with the ground as possible.

You should also avoid sheltering under trees, metal objects, and anything that could break over you.

If you are in a group, you should try to spread out since staying together may put you at more risk. 

Tip: Have an escape plan in mind before visiting the beach or pool.

Read Next: Difference: Isolated vs Scattered vs Widespread Thunderstorms

Final Word

How dangerous is swimming in a thunderstorm? It turns out it is very dangerous. So, before you slip on your swimsuit, check the weather forecast and look out the window.

If you see dark clouds rolling in, it is time to find a fun indoor activity far away from any body of water.

If you are caught in a dangerous situation, remember to follow certain guidelines.

Get inside as quickly as possible, avoid high ground, and stay dry. By following these steps you can have fun and stay safe.