Can you really get struck by lightning while swimming in an indoor pool?

So the other day, it happened again: I was swimming inside the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in uptown Charlotte, more than halfway through my workout, when all the lifeguards blew their whistles at once.

I pretended not to hear it at first, but by the time I completed another lap, one of the guards was leaning over the edge of the pool into my lane.

“Thunder,” she said. “We need everyone out.”

It’s a pretty simple rule, and practically everyone who uses a public or community pool knows it: Any thunder or lightning – and boy, has there been a lot of both this summer – means everyone must leave the water immediately, and stay out for 30 minutes. Each additional sound of thunder or sight of lightning begins a new countdown. Once 30 thunder-/lightning-less minutes have elapsed, it’s considered safe to go back in.

This rule applies to the vast majority of publicly accessible pools, both indoor and outdoor, in the Charlotte area. And I get it when it comes to outdoor swimming pools; although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are only around 1 in 500,000, engaging in outdoor recreational activities certainly can increase your risk.

But after my 12th (13th? 14th? I’ve lost count) interrupted swim this year due to a storm, I decided to try to answer a question that neither a remarkable number of phone calls nor the Internet – believe it or not – wasn’t definitively able to: Can you really get struck by lightning while swimming in an indoor pool?

Read Charlotte Observer

Photo by schaitanya


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