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Safety For Swimmers: How to Stay Safe During Thunderstorms

The rainy season has already begun! In fact, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) declared that the Philippines has been following the rainy season period since it was declared on the 14th of June.

Is it safe to swim when it’s raining?

Answer: Yes, definitely! Swimming under the rain is both safe and fun. In fact, many children enjoy swimming twice as much under the rain! Being under drops of water is not harmful. A little rain shower is actually fun. Truly, rain is no threat to children and adults - but when lightning strikes, ah!, that’s when caution is needed!

Why are thunderstorms dangerous?

Before getting into detail about how to stay safe during a thunderstorm, it is important for us to understand what makes thunderstorms dangerous.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines “thunderstorm” as “a storm accompanied by lightning and thunder.” When lightning hits sand, it’s powerful enough to vaporize it. On average, a lightning bolt would be around 30,000 amperes with hot air as high as 54,000 Fahrenheit. In addition, the sound lightning produces is about 250 decibels – that’s enough to cause deafness!

With these numbers in mind, it is without question that humans should be careful during thunderstorms lest they be easy victims of electrocution. May it never be!

What happens when lightning hits water?

The answer to this is simple: the electric charges from the lightning bolt is spread out into the water. The charges are spread horizontally instead of vertically, which creates a wider danger area.

Can I swim during thunderstorms?

Answer: no, you can’t swim during thunderstorms – it’s very dangerous! Although the degree of conductivity varies among different kinds of water (ie. fresh water vs salt water), all water types are conductors. Of course, salt water is a better conductor hence electric charges spread faster in oceans and seas as compared to rivers. Nonetheless, there is a threat to both situations. It would be silly to think that just because there is less conductivity in fresh water, it’s safer to stay in for a swim amidst a thunderstorm. No, both salt water and fresh water must be avoided when lightning it present.

The Noodies Swim School cares about safety!

The Noodies swim classes happen rain or shine, but classes are postponed when thunderstorms plague the skies! We prioritise the safety of our students among all things. :)

How do I stay safe during thunderstorms?

The National Lightning Safety Institute crafted a safety slogan to help people remember the basic rule of thumb when lightning strikes:

"If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it."

There are two things you can do to stay safe during a thunderstorm. One option is to leave the pool immediately (if possible), while the second option is to follow the 30-30 rule.

The 30-30 rule is useful for those who cannot leave the body of water immediately due to circumstances (for example: surfers, fishermen, etc). The 30-30 rule is as follows:

Step 1: Count the seconds

When you see lighting, count the seconds until you hear the accompanying thunder.

Step 2: Calculate and seek for shelter

If there was a 30-second gap between the lightning and the thunder, then the lightning has a strike radius of 6 miles. From there, every 5 seconds would be a mile closer or farther from where you are. Of course, for the sake of safety, it would be wiser to head to shore even when you are uncertain of the direction that the lightning is headed.

On the other hand, if the gap between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, then you are in danger of getting struck right then and there. In fact, if the gap between lightning and thunder is about 10 seconds, you can expect that the lightning is right above you. No time should be wasted in this situation – just leave as fast as possible!

Step 3: Wait until it is safe

When you hear the last rumble of thunder, you have to wait for another 30 minutes before leaving your shelter. Essentially, you may return to the water right after the 30-minute mark but if you would like to be more cautious, you may stay indoors for the time being and return to the water another day.


Open water is tricky because aside from lightning and thunder, storms can disturb the shoreline’s visibility thereby making it difficult to see underwater. This can cause disorientation for the swimmer. In addition to this, it is not safe to head to the open water right after a storm because bacteria and many harmful matter may have been washed away into the ocean by the rain. To ensure safety, it is best to avoid swimming in the open water for 12 to 24 hours right after a storm.

To conclude, it is okay to swim while it’s raining but once there is lightning and thunder, then there is a threat to be addressed. Children and adults alike are in need to be wise when there are thunderstorms. Keep away from bodies of water when lighting and thunder are present. Stay alert this rainy season and swim safely.



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