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Most schools and public pools have the policy of closing swimming areas during thunderstorms for fear of electrocution. I was wondering how logical or reasonable this policy is, given that most pools are relatively small bodies of water in urban or suburban environments with taller building all around. More specifically are there any documented cases of lightning hitting pools or similarly sized bodies of waters (say a pond in a city park) that would justify this?

There is a related question about swimming during a lightning storm however,the question there seems to focus on much larger bodies of water. Like lakes, where there is a distinct possibility that the person (or boat) is the path of least resistance for lightning to hit.

  • Are you sure they're not just closing them because nobody wants to swim when it's pouring outside? – Adrian Petrescu Jun 6 '11 at 0:26
  • @Adrian no, at least at my university there are plenty of people swimming when its pouring, they force everyone to get out for 30 minutes if they hear thunder nearby. This happened recently so I wanted to see if it was actually reasonable. They reopen after thunder passes even if its still pouring. – crasic Jun 6 '11 at 0:30
  • possible duplicate of Is it unsafe to swim during a lightning storm? – Suma Jul 4 '11 at 7:21
  • Lightning does not necessarily hit the highest point (from some article I read a while back. This link at least, backs up that claim. – Wayne Werner Mar 27 '12 at 12:18
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Here are two documented cases of lightning hitting a swimming pool:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2000/07/19/lightning000719.html

Lightning hit an indoor pool in Beaupré, Que. on Tuesday, electrifying the water.

The 20 people swimming in the pool when the lightning struck were brought to hospital as a preventive measure.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/devon/5213234.stm

A Devon man has been killed by lightning while on holiday in Italy.

Michael Haffenden, 50, was dangling his legs in a swimming pool at a villa in Tuscany when the storm struck.

As to your question to how reasonable the policy is;

  1. Do you want to be the person who puts their hand up and be responsible for the deaths of a bunch of school kids (even if statistics say its unlikely, it plays on the mind).

  2. It's possible insurance companies would not pay up in this circumstance.

  3. There may be council regulations or other policies which sit at a higher level, so it's not the choice of the school or the operator of the pool.

  • 1
    Just want to point out, don't undervalue the second point above. You can swim all you like in your own pool, but even our local soccer team has a lightning rule. – going Jun 6 '11 at 1:37
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    I image the worst possible thing you can do, is grab the metal ladder at the side to get out; just as lightning strikes! – Nick Aug 13 '12 at 8:28
  • Although it is a salt water lake and not a swimming pool this is the plan Beetee puts forward to kill some of the remaining tributes in Catching Fire, the second episode of the Hunger Games trilogy (see my questions on EE and Physics) – dumbledad Jan 6 '14 at 17:18

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